New Delhi: Among the success stories of election strategist Prashant Kishor, AAP’s Delhi victory may outshine others. There was an exception, though: he couldn’t win Uttar Pradesh for the Congress-Samajwadi Party combine in 2017. And that’s a reminder that he is not a magician who can turn the tide for any party overnight.
Kishor’s consultancy firm Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) has served several political parties in scoring a thumping win in different elections across the country. Besides AAP in Delhi, Kishor and his firm have been credited with orchestrating several electoral wins while working with the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress, YSR Congress Party, Janata Dal-United and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in elections.
The decimation of Congress and the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections remains fresh in the memories of political leaders.
Before the crucial 2017 assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Kishor teamed up with the Congress to stop the Modi juggernaut in the country’s most populous state where the saffron party had won 73 out of 80 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress has been out of power in Uttar Pradesh — which sends maximum number of MPs to the Lok Sabha — since 1989. Kishor planned to revive the Congress’ fortunes by planning Rahul Gandhi’s 2,500-km ‘mahayatra’ from Deoria in eastern Uttar Pradesh to Delhi, covering 39 districts and 233 assembly constituencies, from September 6, 2016.
Kishor had also planned ‘Khaat pe charcha’ to help secure rights of the poor, farmers, and labourers in government resources. However, the ‘Khaat pe charcha’ campaign soon became a laughing stock as the people who arrived at public meetings of the then Congress Vice President took away the ‘khaats’ (cots).
Sensing the campaign going wrong, Kishor proposed the Congress to have alliance with the Samajwadi Party in the state and brought the theme song ‘UP ke ladke’ highlighting the “insider versus outsider” contest between Rahul and Akhilesh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who belongs to Gujarat.
Then came March and the Congress and the ruling Samajwadi Party were decimated in the assembly polls, where the BJP won 325 seats in the 403-seat Uttar Pradesh Assembly. The Samajwadi Party and the Congress combine could manage to win only 54 seats in the state.
This was the first case where the magic of Kishor and his consultancy firm I-PAC did not work in the state assembly elections.
Kishor first entered the political arena in 2011 with his Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) that has been now renamed as I-PAC, when he met then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and helped him with his third consecutive win in the Gujarat Assembly polls in 2012.
However, it was his active involvement in Modi’s 2014 Lok Sabha campaign — an election that is a textbook case for everything done right — that catapulted him to fame with his ‘chai pe charcha’ campaign, and other innovative campaigning techniques such as 3D rallies, conclaves and social media programmes.
After the success of the 2014 Lok Sabha and the Bihar assembly polls in 2015, Kishor became a celebrity which every political party vouched for. The results of Punjab in 2017, Andhra Pradesh in 2019, West Bengal by-elections in 2019 and Delhi in 2020 will place him even higher in political sellability chart. The most recent to join his bandwagon is Tamil Nadu’s DMK, which has also roped in I-PAC to design its campaign.