• Vanshika Agarwal

Prashant Kishor and his Influence on Indian Politics

Hailing from Bihar’s Rohtas District, Prashant Kishor is India's best known political strategist and tactician. Several monumental wins in Indian polity over the years are credited to this mastermind for his astute methods subsequently ascertaining victory for various political parties. Often perceived as an enigma, Mr. Kishor has had national as well as international experience of strategizing and consulting from when he worked with the United Nations as a public health expert.

What makes Mr. Kishor a man of mystique is the fact that despite any real power or support base in the Indian political arena, he still manages to channel fame, demand and relevance in modern day India and its changed civics.

It is rightly said the pen is mightier than the sword, in Mr. Kishor’s world, his mobile phone and twitter handle are all the weapons in the world he needs to prove his brawn. Talking about his work-life balance, in an interview with BBC he famously said-

“I am not a believer in work-life balance and have literally no interests outside my work.”

Since the year 2011, actively engaged in formulating impressive and positive election campaigns for nine enormously crucial elections, out of which he struck success in eight of them. He has run prominent campaigns for major political parties including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) to name a few. He is also the founder of the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC). In the year 2018, he joined the Janata Dal United (JDU) as an adviser and tactician. His methods of strategizing are so awe inspiring that even OTT platforms such as Netflix and Hotstar have reached out to him with offers, all of which he has declined.

2014 elections a head-start for Kishor

The 2014 Lok Sabha elections which apparently were a one man show, featuring Mr. Narendra Modi and later Mr. Amit Shah in the afterglow. Famous for his instrumental role in Narendra Modi’s landslide win in the 2014 elections, Mr. Prashant Kishor has undoubtedly played a colossal role in revolutionising the conventional modus operandi of Indian electoral campaigning. Like an incredible salesperson, Mr. Kishor, in 2014 engineered “Modi” a political brand, with a catchphrase- a promise of “good days to come” that came in with an instant appeal. BJP’s dream of Mr. Narendra Modi addressing the country from the Red Fort, which was once only as shrewd as him standing in front of a replica of the Red Fort in a 2013 rally in Chhattisgarh, turned into a reality. Thanks to Mr. Kishor. He tactfully moulded Modi’s “chai wala” days to devise the one of its kind “Chai pe Charcha”, a unique interactive program. One man lurked behind while the Modi brand worked its magic, working out the tiniest of details, transforming them into ripples and waves effectively imbuing public opinion in favour of the NDA alliance.

TMC win 2021

After the NDA’s euphoric win, Prashant Kishor quite literally turned the tables in eight out of nine election campaigns he strategized. Kishor has evolved as a different entity of his own. He is no longer some person working in the backroom of a political party, he in himself is a political brand now, perceived as a sure victory getter.

Acting as the engineer for the TMC’s campaign for the 2021 West Bengal state assembly elections, Mr. Prashant Kishor started working towards TMC’s victory at the request of party supremo Mamata Banerjee soon after BJP’s historic win in the 2019 Lok Sabha electoral rolls which definitely stifled Ms. Banerjee’s reign on the state’s politics. Kishor once again tactfully formulated the “didi ke bolo” (i.e. tell Didi) initiative to enable a Lok Adalat like structure for the people to take their grievances to the state supremo Ms. Mamta Banerjee herself. In a tumultuous whirlwind of personal and derogatory politics as the Bengal 2021 elections turned out to be, Kishor managed to turn around the entire agenda and proclaim TMC as a pro-women party, bagging a competitive victory.

Amrinder Singh and Kishor: History no longer in the making?

Prashant Kishor, known for his tactics and innovative campaigning techniques, played a crucial role in ensuring a victory for Punjab’s current Chief Minister, Captain Amrinder Singh in the 2017 State Assembly elections. He famously designed the “Punjab da Captain” and “coffee with captain” programmes to buzz the crooks and gospels of the promising face of the CM.

The Punjab CM Captain Amrinder Singh tweeted, aspiring for another win modelled by Mr. Kishor’s strategic consultancy in the forthcoming 2022 Punjab elections.

However, Kishor who was appointed as the CM’s chief advisor resigned from the post saying: “As you are aware, in view of my decision to take a temporary break from my active role in public life, I have not been able to take over the responsibilities as your Principal Advisor. Since I am yet to decide on my future course of action, I write to request you to kindly relieve me from this responsibility,”

Amidst his resignation, Navjot Singh Sidhu and the turbulence in the party, Prashant Kishor’s resignation has definitely rained on the Captain's parade. However, there are also speculations around him joining the party as a member and not just a strategist among academicians.

The JD(U) and Kishor at odds

The Janata Dal United’s Nitish Kumar, indebted to Prashant Kishor for his re-election, are now at evident odds with each other on a matter of difference of opinion. RCP Singh, Chief Janata Dal (United), lashed out at political strategist and consultant Prashant Kishor, stating that he has manipulated several politicians in achieving their aspirations about prime ministerial dreams.

“Democracy is not like running a company. The voters make us victorious, not any person” - Live Hindustan quoted the JD(U) Chief, RCP Singh.

The continuous hostile word war among the senior leadership and Mr. Kishor ultimately led to the latter’s expulsion from the party. Kishor had publicly expressed his dissent about JD(U)’s support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which has been allegedly dubbed unconstitutional, discriminatory and in open opposition to the ideals of secularism. Under these tumultuous circumstances, Prashant Kishor ultimately left the party wishing Mr. Nitish Kumar the best.

Always on the winning side?

Kishor has been sobriqueted “man of the match”, “a man with a Midas touch”, “election magician” but is he merely a smart investor who works for the winning side, and gives a razor edge to it? The defeat of the Congress in 2017 Uttar Pradesh polls is a shining example. Unlike Mr. Modi, Captain Amrinder Singh or Ms. Mamata Banerjee, Mr. Kishor could not build a popular brand around Rahul Gandhi’s questionable leadership. Mr. Kishor has undoubtedly helped in not only evolving but also revolutionizing the system of electoral campaigns, by making them more appealing, advanced and systematic. As of now, the enigmatic strategist, Mr. Prashant Kishor is on a break from frantically contriving schemes for Indian politicians.


~ Vanshika Agarwal

Sources: BBC, The Hindu, Economic Times, Times of India