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Prashant Kishor tie-up with Mamata triggers talk about Nitish’s future as BJP ally

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor of JD(U) has signed up to help Mamata Banerjee win 2021 Bengal elections, where BJP is hoping to defeat her.

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Patna: When political strategist Prashant Kishor, the vice-president of the Janata Dal (United), tied up with Mamata Banerjee for the 2021 West Bengal elections, a question began to be asked feverishly in Bihar Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Did he do so with the consent of JD(U) chief Nitish Kumar?

The BJP and the JD(U) are allies in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but ties have been uneasy since discussions for government formation began after the coalition’s resounding victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

With the BJP, which secured a brute majority on its own, setting aside just one ministerial berth for each of the NDA allies, a miffed JD(U) bowed out of the exercise altogether.

When Kishor tied up with Mamata’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), a party the BJP is looking to unseat from West Bengal in 2021, this week, it triggered speculation that Nitish was looking to rebuild bridges with former friends he may need in the event of his exit from the NDA.

“There has been no call from CM Nitish Kumar to Prashant Kishor not to work for Mamata Banerjee,” said a close aide of Kishor, also known as PK. “Besides, the tie-up is not between the JD(U) and the TMC. It is between PK’s professional group IPAC (Indian Political Action Committee) and the TMC,” the aide added.

The PK associate then sought to point out that the alliance between the JD(U) and the BJP is confined to Bihar.

“Even in adjoining Jharkhand, the JD(U) is bound to contest the assembly polls independently,” he said, adding that the JD(U) should treat the agreement between Kishor and the TMC as “an expansion of its influence”.

Also read: Nitish Kumar inducts 8 new JD(U) ministers, sends message he won’t be cowed down by BJP win

‘Good that Prashant has created a bridge’

Mamata and Nitish’s relationship over the years has been bittersweet at best.

The West Bengal Chief Minister had once described her Bihar counterpart as a “friend” and even wooed him for a federal non-Congress, non-BJP alliance during his brief split with the NDA between 2013 and 2017.

However, the equation has been uneasy of late.

When Nitish was in the Grand Alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, he refused to participate in a December 2016 dharna staged by Mamata in Patna to protest against demonetisation. When Nitish expressed support for demonetisation, it left Mamata fuming.

“But now it is good that Prashant has created a bridge that can be used if we need it,” a senior JD(U) leader told ThePrint.

Publicly, however, the JD(U) appears to have washed its hands of the meeting between Kishor and Mamata.

“We do not know what sort of a meeting he has had with the TMC. He joined the JD(U) as an activist and not as a strategist. If he has decided to become a strategist, it is for him to explain,” JD(U) spokesperson Ajay Alok told ThePrint. “So far as we are concerned, the party remains an ally of the BJP.”

Former JD(U) MP K.C. Tyagi said Kishor’s assistance to the TMC was akin to a doctor affiliated to the JD(U) prescribing medicine to a Congress leader.

“How can we take action against him?” Tyagi added, saying the party did not have anything to do with Kishor’s professional actions.

A famed strategist

PK emerged on the political scene as one of the architects of the BJP’s stunning 2014 victory, a performance he repeated as the strategist for the Grand Alliance in the 2015 Bihar assembly election.

However, his second coming in the Nitish fold has been less than spectacular. He was made national vice-president of the JD(U) in 2018, but Nitish said earlier this year that he had inducted Kishor on the request of BJP national president Amit Shah.

PK was assigned the job of revitalising the youth wing of the party: He succeeded in doing so by helping the JD(U) student wing bag the post of president and treasurer in the Patna University Student Union election, where it was up against the RSS’ Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), among others.

However, that election set the stage for another confrontation between the parties as the BJP accused Kishor of trying to influence the poll.

In the run-up to the the Lok Sabha polls, Kishor was not included in the team that negotiated the seat-sharing agreement with the BJP and was also kept away from campaigning.

He subsequently left for Andhra Pradesh, where he helped Jagan Reddy of the YSR Congress pull off a stunning victory against N. Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party.

The victory once again raised Kishor’s stocks as a political strategist, which had taken a beating in 2017 when, despite his support, the Congress lost all but seven of the 105 seats it contested in the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections (the state has 403 seats, the Congress contested the election in alliance with the Samajwadi Party).

Now, apart from the TMC, he is also said to have teamed up with the Shiv Sena.

A BJP leader, however, said Kishor was not a factor in Bihar.

“Despite his absence, the NDA swept 39 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats. It will be local factors that decide the future of the the alliance,” the leader added. “We think Nitishji will stick with the NDA for now and wait for the election outcome of several other states to take the next step.”

Also read: Prashant Kishor is a victim of failed efforts for a Nitish Kumar-Lalu Yadav pact last year

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  1. Mayavati and Nitish Kumar seem to be following similar strategy for short term alliances for maximizing winning of seats. Both don’t see benefits of long term alliances. This strategy will ultimately backfire and isolate them as untrustworthy politicians.

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