Nitish Kumar likely to ask Kishor to negotiate seat-sharing with BJP for 2019.
New Delhi: Political consultant Prashant Kishor joined the Janata Dal (United) in Patna Sunday. He was inducted by the party’s national president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar in the morning, just before the JD(U)’s national executive.
Over the coming weeks, Kishor, 41, is also likely to take a senior position in both the party and the Bihar government, effectively becoming Kumar’s number 2 in the hierarchy.
“Whatever I have learnt so far, I want to put it to good use for Bihar’s development for at least the next few years,” Kishor told ThePrint ahead of his induction.
Kishor’s first challenge after joining the party will be to fix the bickering between the JD(U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. For some weeks now, the two parties have been unable to decide who will contest how many of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar. The issue of seat-sharing is also the main agenda for the state executive meeting today.
Kishor is likely to be entrusted the key responsibility of finalising the JD(U)’s seat sharing arrangement with the BJP since he has had a close personal equation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. At the same time, whenever Nitish Kumar feels like changing his alliance partners one more time, Kishor’s personal equation with Lalu Yadav and with the Gandhi family could come in handy.
Kishor said at a business school event in Hyderabad last week that he’s been meeting both Modi and Shah off and on since October last year. He claimed he has had many conversations with them about politics and policy, especially the impact of the Modi government’s schemes on the ground. “Meeting doesn’t mean working together,” he had clarified.
Yet Kishor is effectively becoming part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Through this route he may well be working on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s re-election campaign for 2019. Refusing to confirm this either way, Kishor said, “My first priority will be JD(U) and Bihar,” hinting that the question of working on the Modi campaign in 2019 will depend on the success of seat-sharing talks between JD(U) and the BJP.
Kishor is also likely to be asked by Nitish Kumar to bargain for greater resources for Bihar from the Modi government.
Sources close to Kishor say he was offered positions in both the BJP and the Congress, to work on their campaigns for 2019.
He is one of the few people who has been in touch with the top leadership of both parties. His decision to join a small regional party thus comes as a bit of a surprise.
Rumours of his “ghar wapsi” to the BJP have done the rounds for a while, but joining the JD(U) is a ghar wapsi of another kind – Kishor is a Sasaram-born Bihari. The BJP and the Congress are both large national parties where new entrants find it difficult to get a toe-hold. While the BJP privileges those from an RSS background, the Congress is still in the throes of a battle between the old and the new guard. Besides, Nitish Kumar has no successor in the JD(U), making it an ideal platform for Kishor in the long run.
The JD(U) also comes with little baggage, making it easier for Kishor to mould the party he is joining.
Bihar shows the way?
A former public health official at the United Nations, Kishor was prime minister Narendra Modi’s campaign manager in the 2014 general elections. He was asked by Mr Modi to help create a larger than life image of the BJP’s prime ministerial campaign.
After falling out with the BJP, he proceeded to work as Nitish Kumar’s campaign manager in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections, helping Nitish Kumar-led Mahagatbandhan win against the BJP.
In 2017, Kishor helped Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress win against the Aam Aadmi Party in Punjab, but the Congress did not perform well in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand despite his help.
Accused of being a “mercenary” by critics, Kishor’s joining JD(U) puts an end to his dalliance with parties across ideological and political divides.
Speaking in Hyderabad last week, Kishor had said he wants to work with people in the grassroots rather than with top leaders. The exception would be Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress Party in Andhra Pradesh, whom he would continue advising since it was an old commitment. Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections will be held together in Andhra.
“Rahul (Gandhi) and I are not on the same page. He has his own ideas,” Kishor said in Hyderabad, which may again be inferred to mean he will likely be betting on the NDA horse in 2019.
Kishor’s modern political campaign techniques are implemented by an organisation of young professionals, called I-PAC or the Indian Political Action Committee. I-PAC is now likely to work on the JD(U) campaign in Bihar, and possibly the Modi campaign in 2019.