M K Stalin-led Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has become the latest political outfit to seal a pact with political strategist Prashant Kishor-led consultancy firm Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) ahead of next year’s state Assembly polls. While the DMK leadership believes that collaboration with Kishor’s firm would ensure them an emphatic victory in the 2021 elections, rival-parties and political commentators have a slightly different view.
The official confirmation has put an end to speculations around DMK approaching Kishor’s political advocacy group after the party had a fallout with former strategist Sunil Konelelu in November 2019.
DMK had swept the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections, winning 38 of 39 seats. In the bypolls to the 22 vacant assembly seats in the state, the party made electoral inroads by clinching 13 seats. Even in the recently held rural body elections, DMK won the maximum number of seats. With the party’s prospects in next year’s elections looking bright, the decision to include Prashant Kishor in their team has raised quite a few eyebrows.
Taking a dig at DMK’s decision to collaborate with I-PAC, AIADMK Minister D Jayakumar Monday said that “M K Stalin should henceforth be called as P K Stalin” as the DMK leader would listen only to Kishor’s commands. “DMK has lost confidence in party machinery and local leaders and hence they have hired a strategist for the assembly election,” he said.
R Venkatesh, editor of a leading Tamil daily, told indianexpress.com that DMK’s move to hire Prashant Kishor is to bring in more professionalism within the party.
“Prashant Kishor has been able to deliver in his earlier assignments. Secondly, there is a difference between the third party like I-PAC analysing the public mood in comparison with the party cadres’ opinion. To bring in professionalism, they have roped in a senior strategist like Prashant Kishor. And yes, most of the traditional parties may not like this professionalism but Stalin has understood that he needs a push like this. Internally DMK would have analysed the voter’s behaviour – their aspirations, likes, dislikes, etc. This is a very professional approach by DMK, whether they would succeed or not depends on the voters. We can assess the difference in their campaign and say whether it has worked or not,” he said.
Venkatesh further added that the aspirations of today’s voters differ from one place to another even within the state. “The urban and the rural voters have different aspirations, it’s not one-dimensional anymore. Earlier there used to be one leader and the public followed whatever he said, and the leader took the opinion of the public if something is not working. But today, with the advent rise of social media and wide-spread debate throughout the state and the emergence of new stakeholders, it has become multi-dimensional. So to save the existing vote bank, and to reach the new generation of voters, the parties think they need external support and hence they hire them,” he added.
A senior journalist said the party’s partnership with Prashant Kishor had begun much earlier and this is just an official confirmation. “During the recent Periyar controversy, the Dravidar Kazhagam and the second-rung leaders protested vociferously against Rajinikanth and some even criticised the other religious group. However, there was not much reaction from DMK and especially from Stalin. They don’t want to lose the vote bank by organising huge rally or protest in favour of Periyar and agitate the other group, all these are part of their election strategy,” he said.
Political commentator Raveendran Duraisamy said DMK’s partnership with I-PAC shows that they are scared of a new player like Rajinikanth. “Prashant Kishor approached Rajinikanth earlier with a view that he will be the game changer in 2021 elections, but since Rajinikanth told Kishor to wait for some period which he wasn’t ready, he shifted his base to other parties. Stalin thinks that the image of Kishor alone could help him succeed in the polls, it may backfire. Kishor is a businessman, his antics with an age-old party like DMK may not work out well. His strategies will irk the DMK office bearers at the ground level who had been following a specific path all these years and working for the welfare of the party. Moreover, since Stalin defeated Edappadi in all the recent elections, it has become clear that the 2021 election is going to be between DMK and others. So, to negotiate other threats like Rajinikanth, Stalin has hired Kishor’s team,” he added.
I-PAC is associated with the Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party for the February 8 polls to Delhi Legislative Assembly and has also joined hands with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal.
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