Credited for scripting the victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and later Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, poll strategist Prashant Kishor will manage the election campaign of the Congress during the 2017 Punjab polls.
Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh was keen to rope in Prashant and the latter had visited Punjab recently to assess the ground situation. Amarinder, who had earlier said it was up to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to give the go-ahead to engage Prashant, confirmed that the All India Congress Committee on Saturday gave the approval to engaging Prashant in Punjab elections. Amarinder and AICC in-charge for Punjab, Shakeel Ahmad, had met Rahul on Friday to discuss various issues.
Even before AICC’s approval, Amarinder had already put in place Kishor’s strategy to reach out to youth voters and set up a social media war room to counter the growing popularity of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Punjab. Now, as official poll strategist, Prashant’s imprint will be seen on most decisions of the party as he manages the backroom of Amarinder, who has announced the 2017 poll as his last election.
Prashant will operate from the Sector 9 office of MLA Kewal Dhillon here, which will also house the party’s social media war room. He had visited the office during his recent visit and liked it, the MLA said. He is likely to replicate his campaign style, including using volunteers to spread across the state, catchy slogans, harnessing power of social media and countering attacks of political opponents and turning them on their head like he did with the DNA barb of Modi on Nitish.
Prashant, a former public health activist with the United Nations, now heads the Indian Political Action Committee or I-PAC, and his team includes media professionals, lawyers, money managers and digital media specialists among others.
Though there were murmurs in the Congress camp on the campaign committee headed by senior leader Ambika Soni being rendered redundant by this, most senior leaders welcomed the move. Former state Congress chief Partap Bajwa said the party had lost two elections in the past and they needed a strategist to counter the AAP. “Elections these days are fought through media hype and social media strategy. The Congress, unlike the AAP, does not have people to do that,” Bajwa added.
The appointment has raised the hackles of some leaders, such as former MLA Ripjit Brar, who had recently said that the Congress should look for experts to bail Punjab out of financial distress and its farmers out of agrarian crisis before finding those who could win elections.