In the portico of Sheikhpura House of Patna’s Bailey Road, young men with notepads and pens sit on neatly arranged chairs, waiting anxiously. Bihar is in the midst of political upheaval with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar forming a new alliance with the RJD. Only a few kilometers away, top leaders of the BJP are protesting at their party office at Birchand Patel Path.
Minutes later, the doors of the bungalow open and Prashant Kishor, arguably India’s most-sought-after election strategist in recent times, walks out. He addresses the eager youngsters for the next hour and a half even as media persons wait inside for his views on the political developments in the state. It’s a busy day for the former JD(U) national vice president.
In fact, his days have been packed since May with Kishor working on building his own party — the newest player in a state whose politics has for long revolved round the faces who came up during the JP Movement.
According to sources, Kishor’s political party — expected to come into existence latest by mid-2024 — is likely to contest the 2025 Bihar Assembly elections.
“We have been watching Bihar politics from above, now it is time to land,” a Kishor team member told The Indian Express.
Through a movement named ‘Jan Suraj’ launched in May this year, Kishor has already embarked on shaping his party, which, he has claimed, is an attempt to give Bihar a political alternative that can rise above caste politics and address some of the core issues behind Bihar’s underdevelopment.
As part of the party-building exercise, Kishor has already held about 150-200 public meetings in various districts of Bihar, along with a padyatra beginning October 2, during which he will criss-cross the entire state, reaching every panchayat and block to meet people. The padyatra, according to Kishor, is expected to be completed within a year and a half, following which the party will be launched.
Sources said the exercise is not just aimed at understanding the problems faced by people but also to identify the right kind of people from across the state who must be ushered into politics.
They said that before embarking on the project, Kishor and his team conducted a survey across the state where they found that 67 per cent people in Bihar want an alternative to the current political system, and that they are not satisfied with governments of the last 30 years. Of those seeking change, 30 per cent were youth between the ages of 20 and 35.
Following this, Kishor announced a phone number for people keen on joining his project. According to Kishor’s team, on May 2, when the movement was launched, 17,000 people called on the number. As of today, they have heard from 75,000 people, Kishor’s team members said.
Through the movement’s digital platforms such as Baat Bihar Ki, Jan Suraj and Fan Club, Kishor has been able to reach out to about 25 lakh people, his team members claimed. “If we go beyond these three platforms in the digital arena, then we have 75 lakh to 1 crore people who have got in touch with us,” a Kishor team member said.
On August 8, a Jan Suraj Abhiyan Samiti, a block-level committee, was set up in Siwan. Sources said the team plans to set up such samitis, with 40-50 members in each block, across the state within the next six months.
While Kishor’s attempts seem to be on the lines of the Aam Aadmi Party’s political experiments, his team members denied any similarities, saying the AAP’s movement was Delhi-specific whereas Bihar offered a completely different set of challenges.
On how he expected his party to rise above caste in a society such as Bihar, Kishore has earlier said: “I don’t agree that caste alone determines voting. It is an important aspect. When people vote, there are many factors…Many elections, from 1989 to 2019, have been won by rising above caste lines. If a narrative catches the imagination of the people, society has the capability to rise above caste politics. If we get the right people from all castes, it will automatically be representative.”
In his press briefings after launching his Jan Suraj movement, Kishor has often said that his efforts are inspired from the movement launched by the Congress in pre-Independence India.
After engineering a comprehensive victory for the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC in the fiercely fought West Bengal Assembly elections of 2021, Kishor had announced in May last year that he had decided to quit the work of managing elections and do “something else”.
Exactly a year later, after ‘declining’ an offer from the Congress, Kishor announced his Jan Suraj movement.