Andhra Pradesh Assembly Elections | Robbin Sharrma, man behind TDP’s dramatic turnaround

When Robbin took up the task of reviving the rather sagging fortunes of the TDP in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, there was an air of skepticism. But this week’s results have silenced critics.
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 21:37 IST
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 21:37 IST

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Hyderabad: The 2019 Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh had relegated N Chandrababu Naidu-led Telugu Desam Party into near-oblivion. The party had only 23 of the 175 seats in its kitty.

Five years later, it went on to bag 135 seats in the Assembly. The person who strategised this historic win for Naidu is Robbin Sharrma, a protege of India’s poll consultancy’s poster boy, Prashant Kishor.

What is interesting in the Andhra elections is that it was not just the fight between the two bitter rivals, Naidu and YSRCP leader YS Jagan Mohan Reddy. There was a subplot, a five-year battle on the sidelines between ‘R & R’, the two proteges of Prashant Kishor, Robbin Sharrma and Rishi Raj Singh.

While Robbin-led ShowTime Consulting (STC) guided Naidu, Rishi-led Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC), with which Kishor was earlier associated, worked for YSRCP.

When Robbin took up the task of reviving the rather sagging fortunes of the TDP in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, there was an air of skepticism. But this week’s results have silenced critics.

The I-PAC-managed YSRCP had its share of embarrassment, when its chief Jagan visited its office in Vijayawada a few days after May 13, the polling day.

He had declared that the YSRCP would be winning with a mandate larger than in 2019. That year, the YSRCP had won 151 Assembly seats and 22 Lok Sabha segments. He had said the entire country would look at Andhra Pradesh on the counting day. But on June 4, the YSRCP drew a blank in at least eight of the state's 13 combined districts.

In between this poll management drama, Kishor had created a flutter by meeting Naidu earlier this year. While he publicly denied working for Naidu, TDP sources said he had helped the party by giving some advice on a few weak points of the campaign.

The story of Rishi and Robbin

Rishi and Robbin were colleagues at Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), the organisation that also helped bring the Narendra Modi-led BJP to power in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Kishor and a few others had founded the CAG before the 2014 polls. Later in 2015, both Robbin and Rishi went on to become founding members of I-PAC with Kishor.

Robbin had handled the popular "Chai Pe Charcha" narrative in Uttar Pradesh, where he implemented the on-ground campaign.

After the dissolution of CAG in 2015, Robbin joined I-PAC as a founding member and successfully led Nitish Kumar's election campaign in Bihar. He ran ground operations as campaign head for Nitish’s 2015 cycle campaign.

Later, he parted ways and moved on to start his political consultancy firm, ShowTime Consulting (STC).

This was the time when the TDP had put up a disastrous show in the 2019 Andhra Assembly polls. Naidu immediately hired Robbin’s firm to help revive his fortunes.

Interestingly, a team of Robbin’s also worked on the Aam Admi Party (AAP) campaign in Punjab in 2022. With a record number of Assembly seats, the party had swept the state. Robbin had himself coined the AAP's flagship campaign slogan, "Ik Mauka Kejriwal Nu, Ik Mauka Bhagwant Mann Nu," according to sources close to him.

"I never competed with I-PAC, a party I co-founded and worked for. It's just that I worked for a party that is opposite to the one the I-PAC team has been working for in the last few years," Robbin Sharma told DH.

I-PAC had played an important role in YSRCP's historic win in the 2019 polls. Since 2017, I-PAC has been working with YSRCP, running campaigns for Jagan in the 2019 and 2024 polls.

The TDP’s campaigns, designed by STC in the last five years, like Idhem Kharma Mana Rashtraniki, Bhadude Badhudu, Praja Galam, Super Six, and TDP scion Nara Lokesh's historic padayatra, called Yuva galam, established a connect with the masses.

“The TDP+ has won 164 out of 175 seats in Andhra Pradesh with an unprecedented strike rate of 94%—the highest ever seen in an Assembly election in a large state in India since independence,” added Robbin.

How did this happen?

So, how did the STC pull off such a historic feat?

"While we ran a campaign focused on praja, which refers to people and the hardships they have faced in recent years, their (I-PAC) campaign was centred around Jagan. Ultimately, it turned out to be Jagan vs Andhra. Ultimately, it will be people who triumph in the end," Robbin told DH.

“It is all team effort,’’ he added.

Lokesh’s Yuva galam had helped him connect with the grassroots-level cadre and established him as a 'mass leader’.

Lok Sabha Election 2024 results | Check all constituency results here

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Andhra Pradesh Assembly poll 2024 results | Check constituency results here

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Published 06 June 2024, 21:37 IST

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