After nearly six years of formulating election strategy – initially for Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then for his rivals, Nitish Kumar and the Congress — Prashant Kishore is ready for electoral politics.
At an interaction with students of the Indian School of Business in Hyderabad on Sunday evening he said he is done with campaigning for individuals and wanted to return to “grassroots politics”.
Mr Kishore was unwilling to reveal which party he was planning to join. But indications are that it would be Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United. The 42-year-old enjoys a good rapport with Mr Kumar, with whom he has been associated since he drew up the election strategy for the Grand Alliance in 2015.
Mr Kishore, who started his career as a political strategist in 2012, working closely with Narendra Modi, then the Gujarat Chief Minister, made headlines after crafting his campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But after the elections, differences cropped up between him and BJP chief Amit Shah and Mr Kishore decided to go his own way. Over the next few years, Mr Kishore worked for political rivals of the BJP – not just Nitish Kumar but also the Congress.
In political circles, Prashant Kishore came to be known as Chanakya of Nitish Kumar and their association has continued even after Mr Kumar joined hands with the BJP. Lately, the two had a series of meetings, which has given rise to speculation that Janata Dal United might be his chosen party.
Sources say Mr Kishore was even tasked with brokering peace between the Chief Minister and Lalu Yadav’s party, but the plan did not materialise, as Tejashwi Yadav, who is handling the party in his father’s absence, is set against it.
Lalu Yadav was jailed months after Nitish Kumar ended the Grand Alliance in July last year and partnered with the BJP and Tejashwi Yadav, his political heir, has been a bitter rival of the Chief Minister since.
But while his strategy for the Congress in Punjab elections worked out, with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh publicly acknowledging his role, the results in Uttar Pradesh, where the Congress partnered with Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, were disastrous. The BJP swept the election, winning 325 of the state’s 403 seats. The Samajwadi Party and the Congress together won only 54 seats.
Prashant Kishore was blamed for the defeat – with state leaders attributing it to his idea of naming three-time Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial candidate for the state. Others said the tie-up with Akhilesh Yadav alienated the local Congress leaders, leading to further rifts within the party.