Tuesday, 29 November, 2022
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Prashant Kishor is seen as an election magician. But he wins only when in winning team

Like any good salesman, Prashant Kishor needs a solid product to sell – such as Modi, Jagan, Amarinder. Otherwise, his magic falters.

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Prashant Kishor’s expulsion from the Janata Dal (United) following his very public brawl with Nitish Kumar over the new Citizenship Act made it to national headlines, like much else that the poll strategist-turned-politician-turned-rebel with a cause does.

Kishor, in many ways, is an enigma — has no mass base, no real power, does not have a perfect track record and yet, remains powerful, relevant and in-demand. This is an art he has mastered. Essentially, like any good salesman, Prashant Kishor needs a solid product to sell — Narendra Modi, Amarinder Singh, Jagan Mohan Reddy. But he is far from the magician he is made out to be or models himself to be, and cannot turn weak sides into stronger ones.

Kishor does well when he is with the winning side, garnishing their victory with his razor-sharp touch. But when he had, for instance, Rahul Gandhi to convince voters with and to build a brand around, he simply couldn’t.

Now, Prashant Kishor has been roped in by Tamil Nadu’s DMK to help in the 2021 state assembly polls. This, even as he is managing Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s campaign for the state polls due on 8 February.

Also read: Why Nitish, Mamata, Uddhav and Kamal Haasan need Prashant Kishor

A power centre

The former public health expert, who worked with the United Nations, ventured into the political arena in 2011 when he met then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. But it was his active involvement in Modi’s 2014 Lok Sabha campaign — an election that is a textbook case for everything done right — that catapulted him to instant fame. He was the hot property every political party wanted.

Since then, Prashant Kishor’s journey has been largely chequered in terms of the number of times he has jumped ships, and the results he has shown. But, from Punjab to West Bengal, from Uttar Pradesh to Andhra and from Delhi to Tamil Nadu — Kishor’s demand has only continued to grow, making him a power centre in Indian politics in his own right.

Also read: Strategist to Nitish Kumar’s right-hand man: What makes Prashant Kishor so special

An uneven track record

Prashant Kishor has delivered several impressive results — from Modi in 2014, the mahagathbandhan in Bihar in 2015 to Amarinder Singh in 2017 and Jagan Reddy in 2019 — and yet, the question to be asked is whether these successes can be attributed to the poll strategist, given the instances where his ‘magic’ hasn’t quite worked.

Consider this. Modi ran a smart, crafty campaign in 2014, when the voter was desperate for a change and the ruling Congress was dealing with corruption charges. Kishor worked hard, but would Modi not have won that election, and in the manner that he did, without the poll strategist?

BJP’s performance over the next few years has the answer. The party went on to win several difficult states — Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Tripura — without Kishor. More importantly, Modi won the 2019 Lok Sabha polls by an even larger margin, despite the burden of a five-year incumbency. Does the Modi- Amit Shah combine, and their ‘backroom boys’ (some of whom privately claim several of the 2014 slogans attributed to Kishor were actually a result of ‘team work’) really need him?

In the 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls, not only did the BJP win without Kishor, it actually won against him. The poll strategist came on board for the Congress campaign, made one disastrous call after another — from declaring Sheila Dikshit as the CM face to overusing Rahul Gandhi — and the results left the Congress-Samajwadi Party combine in tatters. The biggest sufferer — the Congress.

In the same set of elections, however, Kishor managed a victory in Punjab where Amarinder Singh rode to power on a savvy, connected campaign. And yet, that election was more about the fiesty chief minister, his voter connect and astuteness.

In the Bihar polls, Kishor had a deadly combination of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Yadav — two of Bihar’s most popular and rooted politicians — to work with. He mounted a bright campaign, and it helped that the rival BJP made silly mistakes, like RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s famous reservation comments or Modi’s equally foolish DNA remarks.

Also read: The logic behind Lage Raho Kejriwal, Prashant Kishor’s slogan for the Aam Aadmi Party

What makes Kishor tick

The strategist is now carefully choosing strong sides — Jagan, Mamata Banerjee, Kejriwal and now DMK. This is precisely the astuteness that has kept him afloat. For instance, more than selling the politician he is working with, Kishor knows how to sell himself, and make leaders across the spectrum believe they need him.

He has tantalising ideas that his clients can barely afford to refuse, and that voters (mostly) lap up — Chai Pe Charcha for Modi, Coffee with Captain for Amarinder Singh, Didi ke Bolo for Mamata Banerjee and Aage Badhta Rahe Bihar, Phir Ek Baar Nitish Kumar. The Khaat Pe Charcha for Rahul Gandhi was a damp squib, but the branding is effective only if the product has the potential of working.

Prashant Kishor knows the importance and art of branding, and of aggressively peddling that brand, substance or not — including his own. Moreover, this is a revolutionary concept for Indian politics, where ‘party loyalty’ is all-important and those switching sides are seen as part of the Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram syndrome.

This poll strategist, however, has made himself an exception. So, Kishor stands with Modi against Rahul’s Congress, but then stands with Rahul’s Congress against Modi in UP. He fights for Congress’ Amarinder Singh against the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, but a few years later, helps the AAP fight against the Congress and the BJP in Delhi. More jarringly, he officially becomes a politician by joining the JD(U), but continues to advice parties that are rivals of the NDA camp that Nitish belongs to — Trinamool Congress, YSR Congress and AAP, for instance.

Of course, Kishore also knows how to tackle the media, disseminate his message through it and most crucially, keep the ‘Khan Market gang’ on his side. He has kept up the pretence of being the ‘behind-the-scenes’, even while carefully designing himself as a premium brand.

What Prashant Kishor’s trajectory in politics can teach established politicians in India is how to remain relevant, in-demand and on the radar always. And with his latest ‘rebel’ avatar, he has shown how seamlessly one can transition from a backroom, placid version to an aggressive, standing up-for-a-cause one.

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  1. U can say prashant kishore …. Event manager .. or campaigner…from slogan u can’t win elections.. I have not seen any strategy of pk….. He always was a coach of strong team…… nd team wins than credit goes to him… If he won …. Uttar Pradesh election than we can tell yes … He got something …. I am also upcoming poltical strategist……nd yes I find….. Many lopeholes…… In prshant kishaore……. Strategy…….. If he is real stragist bat for congress ,rjd vs bjp,jdu…… Nd win this tough election………. startegy is very different thing……. U should target fault….. Lines….. Nd then it can shake ….. Earth…… hidden big topic in mind of people……

  2. sir it is for your immediate legal intimation that I have got body changed murder activity pending against myself opposite party genetically belongs to bjp trinamool political body namely amal kanti biswas anima biswas rakhi biswas nila biswas and troyi biswas all from kudghat kolkata zone.. So sir it is legally restricted against every family member of your total family to do any type body changed activity against any others life till the above mentioned body changed murder activity is pending in jurisdiction of kolkata high court.. If it is by any way found that disobeying my legal intimation any of your family member get involved in body changed activity immediate criminal murder offence will get started against that family member of your related family.. Hence sir it is requested respectfully to maintain the breach and peace of the nations land as per your permit able range of legal capacity..

  3. PK ,claims to be a poll strategist ,not God , even God would be helpless if he were to try & make Rahul Gandhi win a LS election.

  4. He claims win Punjab. But that win was exclusively to the credit of Amrinder Singh. Same is true in Bihar. Hence this election magician has to deliver something real win to which he can take credit.

  5. Well researched article. Prashant Kishore is in demand, because Indian politicians are stupid and cannot think out of box. The way he has helped conflicting interest shows that he is as unprincipled as his clients.

  6. I think the writer is clueless. He/She fails to notice what went wrong with Congress and PK relationship ! He/She fails to notice how the image of Kejriwal and mamta have improved after joining hands with PK. And thus not being able to notice such subtle changes in politics makes the above article a very poor analysis !

  7. Well argue, articulated post about a man who used the American concept of marketing to the cash-rich politicians, devoid of workers.

  8. Madam, You are not able to differentiate between role of a consultant and the client. Consultants have limited role that it tries to optimize the available resources. Second, it is not necessary that client will accept all recommendations of a consultant. Therefore, consultant may provide strategies that will improve the performance by using proper analytical tools. However, in a competitive world this extra may change the result. So, when IPAC goes to the client, it will do a baseline study to identify the as is scenario and whether his strategies worked or not depends on satisfaction of the client. So, more and more people taking his services imply that if you are in a very competitive zone, they believe it will deliver result. There will be always a difference between Sales Professional and Brand Consultant.

  9. The election results in India follow a predictable pattern. The incumbent central Government can assume to aspire to get it re-elected —
    (a) when there is Effective Opposition party or pre-poll alliance having credibility to replace incumbent government. Otherwise the golden magic of TINA (there is no alternative ) prevails.
    (b) Credibility of central government is judged by the voters on the issues of security threats–internal as well as external , non-corruptible image of the government ( not of its Mukhiya only -Remember MMS Ji had non-corrupt image , but not so can be said of the government he headed ) ,
    (c ) Inflation rate- whether its pinches common man or not, Unemployment narrative raised by the opponents of the Government and with how high pitch it is parroted by anti-Government media,
    (c) central Government initiative and record in development. Development has taken place or is taking place is always visible. Sometimes Like a woman s pregnancy it may not be visible initially , but within a short span of time ,like emergence of baby bum , it proclaim its presence itself. For this ruling party or opposition propaganda is of little use to influence voters perception.
    IN CASE of states elections – results also follow predictable trend . In many states like in Punjab , Rajasthan, people vote out incumbent governments religiously. In some states caste, religion, regional affiliations , pre-poll arrangement matter most. In some states like most of the southern states, Orrisa , WB , Andhra, Telangana ,local regional parties are well entrenched and space for national parties is practically not there. More over , In many cases over due to smaller size of constituencies it is always possible to overturn previous results where there was small margin of victories in previous elections.
    Any smart politician or group of politicians can grasp the trend of election results in their respective state easily and make and follow strategy or tactics to capture state assembly. So in state s election it is local leaders brinkmanship, not advise by ELECTION-SPECALIST will work. Specialists like Prashnt Kishor are deft in projecting themselves in media also. They have to procure their next job.

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