What is poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s Bengal 2021 blueprint for Mamata Banerjee?

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor – who will work with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her party Trinamool Congress targeting her party’s win in the 2021 Assembly polls in Bengal – has been behind the success of many political bigwigs. That includes spectacular wins for Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and most recently, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s sweep in Andhra Pradesh elections last month.

Insiders say that Kishor’s methodology is to go slow and make subtle changes over a period of time. This is the reason he takes up assignments for two to three years before the results actually show, in order to make an overall qualitative change that includes the branding of a politician and her/his political party.

“He will not create a new Trinamool Congress, not a new Mamata Banerjee. It will be a very slow and sure change over a period of time so that there is no jarring effect for the people watching them,” said an insider.

Kishor took up the assignment from Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh in July 2017, and this was closely followed by byelections in some seats, where Reddy’s party performed miserably, and Kishor was promptly written off. But 2019 showed spectacular results.

Groundwork and methodology

Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) is not a huge army of people that goes and camps wherever he takes up a new assignment. In fact nearly 80 per cent (sometimes even more) persons who work with him are appointed from the state, where they know the local language and are familiar with the culture. And the 42-year-old Kishor is known to bank on a very young team.

And what is the purview of the work? Everything, says an insider. From communications (including social media, posters and hoardings) to the clothes that politicians in the party should wear, selecting profiles of the people to be given tickets and finding out through surveys what the electorate wants. All this and more.

Clearly, the Trinamool Congress has learnt the hard way in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, that “development” does not always work, and doesn’t bring votes. Professional strategies are what matters for Banerjee and her party right now, that has nosedived from 34 seats in 2014 to 22 seats this time. And an overhaul is what is required, she knows.

It is said that Prashant Kishor had shown Narendra Modi his interview with journalist Karan Thapar (in which an angry Modi left midway) 30 times in order to train him how to handle difficult questions.

Kishor is aware that every state is different, and that, when it comes to fighting the BJP, one of the major things to fight against is the huge among of money that the party pumps in. However, Kishor has been successful in this too the past. In the Nitish Kumar success story of 2015 Bihar Assembly election campaign that Kishor had spearheaded, the Janata Dal United was behind BJP in a 1:10 ratio in terms of money, said a close aide.

Political ramifications of Kishor taking up Trinamool Congress’ assignment

The political ramifications of Prashant Kishor taking up an assignment from Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee is significant. Kishor is a national Vice President of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal United, that is part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Banerjee’s party is opposed to the NDA. While some reports suggest that Kishor’s move has not been taken well by the JDU insiders, other reports say that Kishor is on his way out of the party. On the other hand, some BJP leaders have been wondering whether Kishor is “on a mission to regroup anti-BJP parties”, and the Trinamool Congress assignment is part of this move. This, coming at a time the JDU and the BJP’s terms are visibly stressed, is particularly significant.

Sources said that Kishor is to take up Mamata Banerjee’s assignment from July, but he is now waiting for things to cool down a bit and is certainly in no hurry. By the time he takes up the assignment in Bengal, things would have been sorted out internally within the JDU.

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