Chennai: Election strategist Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) has now signed on to help the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in the 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly elections.
Kishor met DMK president M.K. Stalin Monday, apparently to seal the deal. After some initial speculation, a senior DMK leader confirmed the development to ThePrint. Neither side has, however, issued an official statement on the partnership.
The DMK has signed up with Kishor after its strategist for the 2016 assembly and 2019 parliamentary polls, Sunil K., stepped down last week. Sunil and Prashant Kishor had co-founded Citizens for Accountable Governance, the precursor to the IPAC in political consultancy.
Kishor is a vice-president of BJP’s ally Janata Dal (United), and shot to fame by designing Narendra Modi and the BJP’s successful Lok Sabha election campaign in 2014. However, the IPAC has helped parties regardless of their opposition to these parties in the past too.
Proven track record
Headquartered in Hyderabad, the IPAC has a few feathers in its cap, with the most recent being Jagan Mohan Reddy and the YSR Congress Party’s successful run to power in the 2019 Andhra Pradesh assembly elections.
Kishor and IPAC had crafted strategies for Amarinder Singh and the Congress in the Punjab assembly polls in 2017, as well as for the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan in Bihar. Nitish later broke the successful alliance to rejoin the BJP-led NDA, while Kishor also joined his party.
Kishor was also consulted by Shiv Sena scion Aaditya Thackeray in the just-concluded Maharashtra assembly elections. Aaditya’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra was a key outreach plan devised by the IPAC.
However, it has not all been rosy — in 2017, the IPAC was unable to carry the Congress to respectability in the UP assembly elections, even though he engineered a tie-up with the Samajwadi Party. The Congress won just seven seats while the BJP romped to 300-plus seats in the 403-member house, and the Samajwadi Party dumped it in favour of an alliance with old rival Bahujan Samaj Party for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
Now, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which is locked in a battle with the BJP in West Bengal, has also consulted Kishor to frame its strategy for the 2021 assembly elections. The party’s victory in the three recent bypolls in Bengal is supposed to have had assistance from the IPAC, even though Kishor’s own JD(U) is an adversary of the TMC in Bengal.
Kishor has also faced criticism for holding the secrets of so many parties across the spectrum, and even campaigning against the BJP in the ongoing assembly polls in Jharkhand, where the JD(U) and the BJP are not allies.
Role in Tamil Nadu
At about the same time as the IPAC was helping Jagan in Andhra Pradesh, it set up a new team in Tamil Nadu to find clients for 2021. They started testing waters with Kamal Haasan’s Makkal Neethi Maiam (MNM), but tried to engage with the AIADMK too.
The association with MNM came to an end with superstar Kamal Haasan anchoring Big Boss Tamil season three in October, but it didn’t take long for the IPAC to find a new client in the DMK.
Reacting to the development, AIADMK spokesperson Kovai Sathyan told ThePrint that the state wouldn’t be an easy challenge to people from outside.
“Tamil Nadu as a state has extremely high political awareness. It is going to be a difficult turf for external strategists. The DMK going for Prashant Kishor shows its lack of confidence in strategists within the party,” Sathyan said.