Patna: Election strategist and expelled JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor’s outburst against his mentor and ‘father-figure’, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has got both the RJD and the Congress curious.
Kishor had Tuesday slammed the chief minister for making ideological compromises to stay in an alliance with the BJP.
“Nitishji has always said that he cannot leave the ideals of Gandhi, JP and Lohia… At the same time, how can he be with the people who support the ideology of Godse? Both cannot go together,” Kishor had said. “If you want to stay with the BJP, I don’t have any problem with it, but you cannot be on both sides.”
The attack appears to have the endorsement of the opposition in Bihar. And while Kishor hasn’t given any indication on whether he is inclined to help the opposition alliance, many in the Congress point out his closeness to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. They are said to be in touch even after Kishor snapped ties with the Congress after the 2017 Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections.
“It’s good that PK’s soul has been awakened. He has said the same thing that the Congress has been saying about the NDA in Bihar,” Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil told ThePrint. “There is a lack of development and it is an unprincipled alliance for the sake of power.”
Even the RJD, which has never been warm to Kishor, has had a change of heart. RJD state president Jagdanand Singh once called the election strategist “a gutter insect” of Indian politics but there were warm words Tuesday.
“Prashant Kishor has been able to expose the failures of the Nitish government in a systematic manner — a thing we have been unable to do due to lack of access to statistics and information,” said RJD national vice-president Shivanand Tiwari.
Also read: Why ‘winners’ pick Prashant Kishor
A pointed attack
With poll-bound Bihar likely to see the BJP, JD(U) and the Ram Vilas Paswan-led LJP take on the RJD and the Congress, opposition leaders point out that Kishor has hit Nitish where it hurts the most — the chief minister’s image of a man who delivers.
On Tuesday, Kishor had released statistics of 20 indicators such as the human development index, life expectancy, literacy rate, school dropout rate, per capita income and crime figures among others to state that nothing much has changed from 2005, when Nitish first assumed power.
“Development has not been fast enough to make a significant difference,” Kishor said, although he admitted that it is better than what it was during the Lalu-Rabri regime.
Opposition leaders privately admit that Kishor’s attack on Nitish will have a greater impact than if it came from Congress or RJD leaders.
“Kishor has been an insider and close confidant of Nitish and is better placed in embarrassing the chief minister in the run-up to the polls,” said an RJD leader.
The attack drew an instant reaction from the NDA. Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi pointed out that Kishor was with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 and for two-and-a-half years after Nitish re-allied with the BJP. “He did not say anything about Godse then. He should say why he remembers Godse just eight months before elections,” Sushil Modi said.
Nitish’s close associate R.C.P. Sinha said the chief minister does not need “any certificate from anyone”.
“He should ask the people of Bihar what Nitish Kumar has done. Nitih has never compromised with his principles even with the BJP,” Sinha said.
“If Prashant Kishor thinks that nothing has changed in Bihar then why did he accept the post of JD(U) national vice-president?” asked JD(U) leader K.C. Tyagi.
Anti-BJP leaning suits PK’s business & politics
Political circles in Bihar are, however, also abuzz with speculation about Kishor’s political ambitions. On Tuesday, he had announced his plan to reach out to Bihar’s youth through his ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ campaign, which will begin on 20 February.
The aim of the campaign is to mobilise one crore youth over the next 100 days.
There is a belief in the state that he is looking at more than a Rajya Sabha seat, which Nitish had offered him in 2015, but that he won’t take the plunge for now. Kishor had then said that he had no interest in being part of the Upper House of Parliament.
The posturing, other leaders say, also helps his business.
“Today, he is the most sought-after political strategist in the country but all his clients are anti-BJP,” said a JD(U) MP not wanting to be named.
“He was associated with the Congress in UP and Punjab, Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh and AAP in Delhi. He is also with the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. It means a lot of business. Why would he start a political outfit when a Rajya Sabha seat can be his for an asking?”
An RJD leader too agreed.
“One thing is clear — PK in both politics and making political strategies is firmly with the anti-BJP forces and now has made it clear that he will remain in the anti-saffron group,” the senior RJD leader said.
“The fact that PK played a role in the victory of Narendra Modi in 2014 had always made him a suspect character who would sooner or later switch over to the BJP. But today he has cleared that doubt.”