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Monday, Aug 26, 2019

Mamata reaches out to Prashant Kishor for 2021 polls. This time, he says Yes

india Updated: Jun 07, 2019 07:03 IST
Anisha Dutta and Tanmay Chatterjee
Anisha Dutta and Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Kolkata
Kishor, who most recently helped YS Jagan Mohan Reddy sweep Andhra Pradesh assembly polls, has agreed to work with the Bengal CM.
Kishor, who most recently helped YS Jagan Mohan Reddy sweep Andhra Pradesh assembly polls, has agreed to work with the Bengal CM.

Mamata Banerjee, the Bengal chief minister who found herself unable to stop the BJP march in the national elections, met up with election strategist Prashant Kishor on Thursday to enroll him in her team for the 2021 battle. Kishor is learnt to have told Banerjee that he is game.

The election strategist is also learnt to have shared his analysis of the Bengal poll outcome at his two-hour-long meeting with Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata Banerjee had reached out to Prashant Kishor ahead of the 2016 assembly elections too. Sources told HT that Kishor had then declined the offer since he was already involved in the Congress’s campaign for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh and Punjab elections.

This time, it was Abhishek Banerjee, the chief minister’s nephew and Diamond Harbour MP, who had reached out to the poll strategist shortly after the election results came in. Abhisek Banerjee was also present at Thursday’s meeting.

From just 2 of the state’s 42 seats, the BJP’s ended up with 18 in the just-concluded elections. BJP boss Amit Shah has predicted that the stunning performance was proof that the party was well on its way to win the next assembly election and form the government in 2021.

Also Read:From Marx to Modi: How Left voters ensured BJP’s Bengal victory

The BJP, which won 40 per cent of the popular vote, squeezed Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to all of 22 seats, down from 34 in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Communist Party of India (M), the party that ruled Bengal for decades from 1977 before Mamata Banerjee evicted it in 2011, has conceded that many of its supporters who wanted relief from the Trinamool’s reign could have shifted allegiance to the BJP.

Sources said Prashant Kishor and his political consultancy firm - Indian Political Action Committee – would start working on Bengal from next month.

The BJP promptly taunted Mamata Banerjee for being forced to turn to the election strategist.”One year ago she said she does not need experts like Kishor. Why is she thinking differently now? Nobody can save her from the outcome of the 2021 Assembly polls,” said Bengal BJP vice president Jay Prakash Majumdar . “People should ask her how much of tax payers’ money will she use to appoint Kishor,” he added.

Also Read: The Prashant Kishor factor in Jagan Reddy’s Andhra Pradesh win

Kishor had most recently worked with YS Jaganmohan Reddy who wrested Andhra Pradesh from Chandrababu Naidu and swept the assembly elections.

But it is his association with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s winning election campaign in 2014 that really shot him to face. The next year, he scripted the campaign strategy for Bihar’s Lalu Yadav-Nitish Kumar grand alliance. Much later, he also played a key role in the Congress’s success in ending the Akali Dal rule in Punjab.

Also Read: The Prashant Kishor factor in Jagan Reddy’s Andhra Pradesh win

There have, however, been other campaigns that didn’t come close. Like the one for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly election when the Congress-Samajwadi Party alliance just won 54 seats; the BJP a landslide of 325 seats in the 403-member assembly. Kishor later attributed the stunning defeat to the Congress’s reluctance to execute the plan that he had drawn up.

For someone who is credited with helping politicians script electoral victories, Prashant Kishor’s own run in politics has hardly been extraordinary. Kishor joined Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United last September as its vice president but appears to have lately adopted a hands-off approach, particularly after his close involvement in the party’s affairs got him into trouble with some of the party’s power centres. That he did not campaign for anyone in the run-up to the national elections is seen as a fallout of this distanced approach to the JD-U’s affairs.

First Published: Jun 06, 2019 17:16 IST

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