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Thursday, Aug 22, 2019

After meeting Mamata, Prashant Kishor may work for BJP’s bitter rival TMC

Kishor’s meeting with Banerjee comes roughly two weeks after the BJP bagged 18 seats in the state, sending shockwaves through the TMC.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2019 00:03 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
New Delhi/ Kolkata
People involved in the meeting later confirmed that Kishor has  agreed to work with the Trinamool Congress to help the regional party stop a resurgent BJP  in the 2021 assembly polls.
People involved in the meeting later confirmed that Kishor has agreed to work with the Trinamool Congress to help the regional party stop a resurgent BJP in the 2021 assembly polls. (PTI/ File photo)
         

Political strategist and Janata Dal (United) Vice President Prashant Kishor met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Kolkata on Thursday, setting off speculation that he could end up working for a party that is a bitter rival of the Bharatiya Janata Party, his own party’s ally.

People involved in the meeting later confirmed that Kishor has agreed to work with the Trinamool Congress to help the regional party stop a resurgent BJP in the 2021 assembly polls.

“It has been confirmed today IPAC will begin work from next month, no contracts have been signed and it has been communicated verbally,” a person directly involved with the meeting said, requesting anonymity.

The party said it had no information of the meeting and left it to the party chief (Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar) to take a decision. “We came to know about the meeting through news agencies. It is up to him (Kishor) to explain what talk he had with the West Bengal CM and in what capacity,” said party’s principal general secretary KC Tyagi. The BJP refused to comment and said the matter involved two leaders (Nitish Kumar and Kishor) of an NDA ally.

After the 2014 elections, Kishor was talked of in some quarters as the man behind the BJP and Narendra Modi’s success. He fell out with the party soon after. In 2015, he was again credited with being the architect behind the victory of the Rashtriya Janata Dal - JD (U) - Congress alliance in Bihar against the BJP. However, his outing with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh in the 2017 assembly election did not help India’s Grand Old Party.

He started working with the YSR Congress in May 2017 and joined the JD(U) in November 2018. Nitish Kumar appointed Kishor the party’s vice president and in charge of the youth and students wing, but Kishor developed an uneasy relationship with the party’s Rajya Sabha MP RCP Singh, a trusted aide of the Bihar chief minister. The unease became public with Kishor announcing on Twitter just ahead of the first round of polling for the Lok Sabha election that Singh was in-charge of the campaign and publicity, and that his role was just to assist. The YSRCP’s landslide win in both the Lok Sabha and assembly elections in Andhra has served to boost Kishor’s stock.

His meeting with Banerjee comes roughly two weeks after the BJP bagged 18 seats and more than 40% of the vote in Bengal, its highest share ever, sending shockwaves through the Trinamool camp. The BJP has since publicly vowed to uproot the Trinamool administration in the eastern state. Banerjee met Kishor for more than an hour at Nabanna, the state secretariat building. The people cited in the first instance claimed that the two entered into an agreement that will see Kishor’s political consultancy firm, Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), working for the Trinamool from next month. This is the first time Banerjee, who single-handedly uprooted the 34-year-long Left Front rule in 2011, is seeking expert help to run her campaign.

A senior Trinamool Congress leader said on condition of anonymity that Banerjee’s nephew and Diamond Harbour MP Abhishek Banerjee played a key role in organising Thursday’s meeting. At the meeting, the two leaders reportedly discussed the situation in West Bengal and exchanged some ideas. Banerjee, according to a second senior Trinamool functionary, spoke about how the BJP was trying to incite violence in Bengal.

Trinamool leaders pointed out that Banerjee first contacted Kishor ahead of the 2016 assembly polls, although nothing came of the meeting. “Trinamool didn’t agree to Kishor’s price and plans and Banerjee told some of her colleagues that she didn’t need anyone to tell her how to manage polls in her own state,” said a confidante of Banerjee who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Trinamool Congress won a second term with 211 of the state’s 294 seats that year.

A third Trinamool leader admitted that the ground situation has “changed completely”. “Even she (Banerjee) knows that the people are fed up with the Trinamool because of two reasons: rampant corruption and extortion at the ground level and Trinamool’s soft pedalling towards one particular community. Bengal has become a fertile ground for the BJP to grow further.”

First Published: Jun 07, 2019 00:03 IST

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