Prashant Kishor: Bracing for his toughest fight yet

Prashant Kishor: Bracing for his toughest fight yet

In his 10-year-long career as a political strategist, Kishor has worked with all hues of political parties

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Credit: PTI

When Prashant Kishor recently predicted that BJP would struggle to cross the double-digit mark in the 294-member West Bengal Assembly, it did not come as a surprise.

It was perfectly in sync with what is known of him. Kishor, an independent political consultant, gets into the character of the party he is currently advising. This time around, he is working for Mamata Banerjee for an election where the BJP has emerged as a shock challenger to her.

In his 10-year-long career as a political strategist, Kishor has worked with all hues of political parties and seen many political fights. But the upcoming Bengal election might be his toughest test yet. His detractors have held that the secret of his success has been to cast his lot with the winning side (Modi in 2014, Nitish in 2015, Kejriwal in 2020 and so on) – this is his chance to prove them wrong. After all, in Bengal, he is up against Amit Shah once again, known as the master strategist to beat them all.

That said, there is no denying Kishor is something of a campaign design genius, who understands the needs and requirements of present-day political campaigning from technology to branding, and has found a way to make his style of packaging personalities from Modi to Amarinder Singh and from Nitish to Jaganmohan Reddy a hit with voters.

TMC's newly launched public outreach initiative ‘Mamata, the pride of Bengal’ is the brainchild of Kishor. It seeks to create the aura of an able administrator around her while also giving teeth to TMC's 'outsider' campaign against the BJP.

Born in the Konar village of Rohtas in 1977, Kishor, the son of Shrikant Pandey, a doctor, shifted to Buxar in Bihar from where he completed his secondary education. After a stint with the UN in Chad, in north-central Africa, he formed Citizens for Accountable Governance, which he later converted into the Indian Political Action Committee.

The year 2010 was the turning point for Kishor. One of his papers documenting economic prosperity and malnutrition in Chad caught the attention of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who invited him for a meeting over coffee. There has been no looking back for him since then.

Kishor drafted the election strategy for Modi in 2012 Gujarat polls and by 2014 he was very close to Modi. He designed Modi’s 3D hologram campaign and 'Chai Pe Charcha' meetings for the 2014 general elections, consolidating a growing 'Brand Modi'. But if the grapevine is to be believed, Kishor did not get along with Modi's right-hand man Amit Shah.

He ended his association with BJP by 2015 but soon moved on to advising Nitish in Bihar in the 2015 polls that saw the emergence of the successful Mahagathbandhan between Nitish and Lalu.

With two massive election victories under his belt, he was considered the go-to man when it came to election strategy. Big names were lining up to be advised by him. But things didn't go as planned in the UP polls of 2017, where his ‘UP ke ladke’ campaign bombed badly.

But Kishor delivered for Congress in 2017 Punjab polls, for Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray and YSR Congress’ Jaganmohan in 2019 and for AAP’s Arvind Kejriwal in 2020. All are chief ministers now – Thackeray after a change of alliance partners post the Maharashtra elections. The buzz was that Kishor was one of the brains behind the new alliance.

In contrast to his mostly-successful role as a strategist, when Kishor directly dabbled in politics, his stint was short-lived. He joined JD(U ) in September 2018 and he became its national vice president, virtually the number two in the party after Nitish. But 15 months later he was expelled by Nitish himself.

In February 2020, Kishor launched the ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ campaign to create a group of like-minded persons, who will help Bihar find its rightful place among top states of India in next 10-15 years. Only time will tell where this experiment takes Kishor.

But for now, all eyes are on Bengal, where Kishor’s performance will be watched very closely.