PATNA: There is suddenly a mad race among the political parties in India to hire Prashant Kishor, political strategist-cum-advisor to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, to win elections. The latest to join this race is the Congress party which is learnt to have hired this man for the Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Punjab polls due in the next few months.
Well, Prashant can cite the outcome of 2014 LS polls and 2015 Bihar assembly polls to prove his “strategic skills” but the lone question now being hotly debated in public is that does he really have the capability to turn the tide in anyone’s favour? The question is not without basis as victory in both the elections was more out of circumstances than due to his strategies.
Let us begin with the 2014 LS polls when he was asked to design the poll campaign of the BJP which eventually won. Experts say the prevailing political situations at that time proved more helpful for the BJP to post convincing victory over its rival, the ruling Congress.
A series of scams, such as 2G Spectrum scam (2008), Satyam scam (2009), Common Wealth Game scam (2010), Cash-for-vote scam (2011), coal scam, Chopper scam, Tatra Truck scam, Adarsh scam (2012) and IPL scam (2013) which continued surfacing at regular intervals during the Manmoham Singh-led Congress government at the Centre had earned a very bad name for the government, causing strong resentment among the general masses.
The public anger grew further when a number of UPA ministers and parliamentarians, such as Suresh Kalmadi, A Raza and Kanimozhi were arrested and jailed on corruption charges while other UPA ministers like Pawan Bansal, railway minister, Ashwani Kumar, law minister, Dayanidhi Maran, textiles minister and Virbhadra Singh who was minister for small, micro and medium industries had to resign over the same issue.
These all situations eventually turned the masses against the Congress. So, finally when BJP hit the poll campaign under Narendra Modi with a catchy slogan of “Abki Baar Modi Sarkar,” the people only lapped it up. Modi’s move to address as many rallies across the country and at the same time addressing the issues of common concerns such as unemployment, black money and corruption further prepared the ground for the BJP’s spectacular victory in the elections. The only thing Prashant apparently did was the attractive packaging of Modi’s ideas and nothing else. “Where was his (Prashant’s) role when the entire country wanted for a change of government at the Centre?” asked a political expert wishing not be named.
The victory in Bihar assembly elections too could be achieved due to two strong reasons than Prashant’s. First, an alliance between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad led to a strong polarization of Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi votes in Bihar. Yadavs being out of power for a decade lent their full support to the Nitish, ignoring their past rivalry towards Kurmis while Muslims were already angry with Modi’s policies. Secondly, the RSS chief remark over reservation just before polls proved further deadlier for the NDA. With majority of the voters coming from the backward community, the fear of losing the benefits of reservations, led them against the NDA as the latter lost the poll badly.
What was strange was that the JD-U didn’t give credit to the Lalu publicly for the victory in Bihar polls and went on saying that it was rather anchored by Nitish’s “clean image” and Prashant’s back-room strategies. This has only angered Lalu Prasad who, as the media reports suggests, is now reluctant to tie up with the JD-U for UP assembly polls due early next year.
The UP elections, thus, are really “an acid test” more for Prashant, than the Congress. A defeat in the polls will only puncture his publicity hype created in the media but the credit will directly go to him if the Congress which does not virtually exist in UP wins election there. The general feeling is that the Congress aided by Prashant’s strategies may improve its vote share but the real contest will be between the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the BJP.
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