Political strategist Prashant Kishor's audio clips from a Clubhouse interaction have been cited by BJP leaders to claim that the Trinamool also acknowledges the BJP's edge in Bengal (HT Photo/Santosh Kumar)
Political strategist Prashant Kishor's audio clips from a Clubhouse interaction have been cited by BJP leaders to claim that the Trinamool also acknowledges the BJP's edge in Bengal (HT Photo/Santosh Kumar)

BJP hits Mamata with Prashant Kishor’s clip on PM Modi. He responds with a dare

In a tweet, Prashant Kishor added he is repeating that the BJP will not cross 100 seats in the 294-member state assembly.
By Sunetra Choudhury, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 10, 2021 01:41 PM IST

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday released four clips of election strategist Prashant Kishor’s conversation with a group of journalists on invite-only app Clubhouse in which he is purportedly heard talking about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in West Bengal and why “50% of Hindus in the state will vote for the BJP.”

Prashant Kishor immediately hit back over “the selective and distorted use of part of the conversation” and asked the BJP to release the full conversation. In a tweet, Kishor added he is repeating that the BJP will not cross 100 seats in the 294-member state assembly.

Clubhouse was launched last year for participants to host discussions in open rooms. The app does not allow recording and lets participants talk freely. To be sure, there have been instances of people using a second device to either record or stream a conversation. When entrepreneur Elon Musk dropped into a Clubhouse room, his conversation was streamed live on YouTube earlier this year.

Amit Malviya, who is the BJP’s co-in-charge of the ongoing polls in Bengal, released the clips. “In a public chat on Club House, [chief minister] Mamata Banerjee’s election strategist concedes that even in TMC’s internal surveys, BJP is winning. The vote is for Modi, polarisation is a reality, the SCs (27% of WB’s population), Matuas are all voting for the BJP! BJP has cadre on ground,” Malviya tweeted.

“Is it open? That moment when Mamata Banerjee’s strategist realised that the Club House room was open and his admissions were being heard by the public at large and not just a handful of Lutyens journalists. Deafening silence followed...TMC’s election was just thrown away!’’

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The clips were released as the polling for the fourth phase of elections began in West Bengal on Saturday. Four more phases are due before the results will be declared on May 2. The BJP emerged as ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s main challenger in the state after the 2019 national polls by winning 18 out of 42 seats. TMC’s tally came down to 22 from 34.

Prashant Kishor said the part of his statement quoted by Malviya was in response to a question by a journalist, who asked the strategist about the BJP’s 40% vote share in West Bengal in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and why is there a perception that the BJP is winning. “I am glad the BJP guys are taking my Clubhouse chat seriously than the words of their own leaders.”

HT has learnt from other participants of the Clubhouse chat that the interaction was in an open room and began at 11 pm on Friday night.

In the clips, Prashant Kishor, who was recently given a cabinet rank status ahead of polls in Punjab, is heard explaining the reasons behind PM Modi’s popularity. He explained why Suvendu Adhikari, who was among the leaders to defect from TMC to BJP, is not really a factor.

“The vote is for Hindus, for polarisation, and for Modi. There are more than 1 crore [10 million] votes of Hindi-speakers in the state; there are 27% of Dalits and they are all with BJP.’’

He added Matua Dalit community will predominantly vote for the BJP but not as unitedly as it did in Lok Sabha--75% for BJP and 25% for Trinamool.

PM Modi visited a Matua shrine during his visit to Bangladesh last month.

Kishor is also heard explaining how the Left voters will vote against Banerjee, even if it means voting for the BJP. He added the BJP workers were all over the state, even if they had been imported from the Left front.

In another clip, Kishor is heard talking about the “blatant misuse of minority politics’’ whether by the Left, Trinamool, or the Congress in the last 20 years. “For the first time, Hindus feel accha bhaiyya, humko bhi to kuch mil raha hai [we are also getting something].’’ Muslims account for around 30% of the voters in the state.

To a specific question about why there has not been any impact of the economy doing poorly, Kishor is heard in the third clip admitting that there was no anti-incumbency against PM Modi. “There is a cult of Modi across the country. For 10 or 15 or 20 or 25%, the degree could vary, but these people see God in Modi,’’ Kishor is heard saying. “The anti-incumbency is against the state government. If you look at it, then Modi and Mamata are equally popular.’’ He explained the allure of BJP as a “ladoo” that the people of Bengal had never eaten but wanted to try out. He summed up three factors helping BJP—anti-incumbency, polarisation and Scheduled Caste votes.

TMC spokespersons declined to comment. Malviya did not respond either to HT’s request for comments.

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