Patna: High-profile poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s second innings with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is proving to be anything but rosy.
Kishor, who has been appointed as the JD(U)’s national vice-president, drew the censure of the party for recently remarking that Nitish should have sought a fresh mandate after he left the Grand Alliance in Bihar to rejoin the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The remarks also angered several members of the party.
“It was a politically immature statement,” JD(U) spokesperson Neeraj Kumar told ThePrint. “PK’s (Prashant Kishor) political career has been short. Politics does not run on Twitter. One has to have political understanding.
“When PK joined the JD(U) last year, we were already with the BJP,” Neeraj added. “The 2015 assembly face was fought with Nitish Kumar as the face of the CM candidate. We did not betray any mandate. Only the alliance partner has changed.”
Away from the public glare, JD(U) leaders privately talk about Kishor’s days in the party being numbered.
“Nitish Kumar is the leader of the party. One goes with the decision of the leader even if one disagrees with it,” said a JD(U) legislator. “PK has been trying to prove that he is bigger than the party. He never uses the JD(U)’s website but runs his own to highlight his achievements.”
Kishor’s dig at the CM has not been isolated to one statement. On 3 March, the day the NDA held a rally at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan, not a single Bihar minister reached the airport to receive the body of CRPF inspector Pintu Singh, killed in a terror attack in Kashmir. It evoked sustained criticism from the opposition.
When Nitish finally went to Begusarai on 7 March, to pay tribute to the slain CRPF inspector, killed in a terror attack in Kashmir, Kishor sarcastically tweeted the same evening, “….and the follow up.”
…and the follow-up pic.twitter.com/CopdgEbsV3
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) March 7, 2019
A roller-coaster relationship
Kishor’s strained ties with Nitish are a far cry from the heady days he enjoyed as the JD(U)’s political strategist in the run up to the 2015 Bihar assembly elections. Kishor was involved in the seat-sharing negotiations between the partners in the Grand Alliance — the JD(U), Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress. He also coined the slogan ‘Bihar Mein Bahar Hai, Nitish Kumar Hai‘.
Such was his involvement that he even earned the admiration of Lalu Prasad who called him “Nitish ka dimag”.
The relationship appears to have soured post the Grand Alliance’s victory. Having taken over as chief minister, Nitish formed the Bihar Vikas Mission, an organisation through which he aimed to recruit the best minds in the country, on a contractual basis, to work in key areas such as town planning, drinking water, education, tap water supply among others.
As part of the process, Nitish appointed Kishor as an advisor to CM with cabinet minister rank and expected him to deliver. Instead, Kishor quit his post and left to join the Congress as a political strategist.
“It left Nitish fuming,” recalls a JDU minister, adding that “this could explain Nitish’s deficit of trust in PK”.
Nitish himself dropped a bombshell in January when in a TV interview he indicated that JD(U)’s political rehabilitation of Kishor was done at the behest of the BJP. Kishor’s ‘rehabilitation’, according to JD(U) sources, was mooted by PM Narendra Modi when he had come to Patna to address the Patna University’s centenary celebrations in October 2017.
By then, Kishor’s image as a political strategist had taken a beating following elections in UP and Punjab. The Congress’s performance in UP was disastrous as it hit a new low while its victory in Punjab was attributed to Captain Amarinder Singh.
The relationship between the two appears to have not recovered.
“From the centrestage, PK has been shifted to the peripheral (sic). Even though he has been made national vice-president, his role has been confined to enticing the younger generation to the party,” said a JD(U) MLA, pointing out that Kishor has been kept out of the seat-sharing talks with the BJP.
Nitish has formed a three-member committee consisting of R.C.P Singh, Bijendar Prasad Yadav and Lallan Singh.
Kishor’s detractors within the party allege that he has been trying to portray himself as the number 2 at the cost of R.C.P. Singh. “PK’s meeting with Shiv Sena leaders caused embarrassment to Nitish Kumar”, said a JD(U) legislator.
The poll strategist, however, does also have admirers within the party. “He is only following the desire of the CM to induct young generation within the party,” said former minister and JD(U) MLA Shyam Rajak. But the question being asked is will Kishor be content with the work he has been assigned.