Updated: May 5, 2022 7:51:59 am
As Prashant Kishor lays the ground for a new political front in Bihar, the state has seen him in this avatar before.
In September 2018, after having helped Nitish Kumar return to power as part of the Mahagathbandhan, Kishor had joined the JD(U). Nitish had rewarded him with the position of the party’s national vice-president, in effect the No. 2. This was after Nitish had already named Kishor as his advisor for planning and programme implementation, with status equivalent to that of a cabinet minister.
With JD(U) national general secretary (organisation) R C P Singh the de facto No. 2 to Nitish, with direct control of party affairs, Kishor was essentially tasked with activating the youth cadre. In the 2019 Patna University elections, he was credited with helping the JD(U) students’ wing register a presence.
However, much like now, when his ambition far exceeded perhaps the Congress’s expectation of him, then too, Kishor was seen as stepping on too many toes. JD(U) sources said his meetings with some senior party leaders and young workers, and promises to several of them to make them leaders, didn’t go down well, particularly with R C P Singh, even though there was no direct confrontation.
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In January 2020, Kishor was expelled from the JD(U). Nitish Kumar went on to say he had inducted the election strategist in the party at the insistence of senior BJP leader and Union minister Amit Shah. Kishor had famously burst onto the electoral scene in the country by steering Narendra Modi’s election to be Prime Minister.
Then, later that year, Kishor launched a “Baat Bihar Ki” campaign, an online drive for enrolling members, as he cited development indices to show how the state lagged behind its counterparts. A source in the political consultancy firm I-PAC that Kishor was associated with said: “We started the drive well, getting over a few lakh members. Then, we were caught up in other assignments and things did not move forward. But data collected under the campaign is still very crucial.”
Kishor’s campaign, seen as a precursor to the launch of his political party, carries the tag ‘Jan Su-raj (or people’s governance)’, and hopes to impress that there is “not much of a difference between Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar, except that the latter did better with infrastructure overhaul and getting some basics right”.
As part of this projection of politics with a difference, Kishor has been meeting prominent members of the civil society, including doctors, RTI activists, retired teachers, and has put out that he is looking for good names with a “clean record”. At the meetings he has been holding, aides reportedly take down bio-data of visitors and detailed suggestions.
One of those he has met, RTI activist Shiv Prakash Rai, says: “A start has to be made. If Kishor is trying to offer an alternative model, one should support him and not be dismissive of him.”
However, there are others who see Kishor as letting his ambition get away with him, in believing that he can win elections now with his “seminar model” of politics. One of the biggest hurdles for Kishor could be shedding his “elite, corporate” image of a cold analyst who prioritises crunching numbers over legwork, particularly as he has zero grass-root connect as of now in his home state Bihar. Says senior political analyst Ashok Wankhede: “PK tries to be a godfather. But in politics, people alone are the godfather.”
Says JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi: “Being a poll strategist and being a practising politician is a different thing. Prashant Kishor perhaps could not understand it fully. Politics has many layers and nuances, which Prashant failed to decipher when he was with us”.
Then there is the baggage Kishor carries of his past political associations. As the JD(U) leader’s poll strategist in 2015, and later its national vice-president, he not just virtually endorsed the Nitish model of politics but also Lalu Prasad’s as the RJD was part of the Mahagathbandhan.
Kishor’s caste too might prove a hurdle. He is a Brahmin from Buxar. There has been no pan-Bihar Brahmin leader since former CM Dr Jagannath Mishra, with the state’s politics that now revolves around OBCs, EBCs, Dalits pushing upper castes to the fringes. Even the BJP, seen as an upper caste leader, fights shy of projecting any upper caste leader.
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