NEW DELHI/GOA: There’s a degree of abandon and risk with which Prashant Kishor, a highly-ambitious and highly-rated poll-strategist, has switched sides after advising several political parties since 2014, so much that he has become a poacher for one and trotter for another. This, as India gears up for a political showdown in 2022 election battles including the 40-member Goa assembly.
Less than a week ago, when Kishor took to micro-blogging platform to attack Congress, it shocked the grand old party to an extent that Chhatisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel was asked to counter the I-PAC bossman.
Two weeks ago, in Goa, when former Chief Minister and ex-Congress leader Luizinho Faleiro joined Trinmool Congress (TMC), he could not stop gushing over Kishor, leaving the analysts and media wondering if Kishor is an analyst, a deal-fixer between parties he advises and handles for their social media campaign or whether he is eyeing a bigger bargain for himself in 2024.
After UP, Goa is going to be the next political hotbed with the upcoming assembly polls in 2022. All eyes are fixed on Mamata Banerjee-led TMC and Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, who have recently joining the fray. So far, BJP has been in absolute power in the state. A lot of credit for that goes to former Goa chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, who wrested the power from Congress in 2012. Since then, BJP had managed to retain it.
After Parrikar’s demise in March 2019, Pramod Sawant (who was then Assembly Speaker) was sworn in as the 13th chief minister. Sawant will lead BJP’s campaign in 2022. While the BJP leadership is confident of retaining power in the state, with the entry of TMC and AAP, the Goa elections will see high-voltage campaign in next few months.
The much hyped poll strategist, Kishor has made it a prestige issue and has been camping in the state capital and meeting leaders to wean them away into TMC fold. But not many in the opposition parties are happy to see Kishor siding up with Didi to expand her footprint along the West coast.
“It has not even been 3 months since TMC entered Goa politics. And it has already started poaching our people by offering them huge money. We don’t know from where that money is coming from and who is giving them the money. People tell us that it is I-PAC that is offering them money. Mr Faleiro went on record to say that he is joining TMC at the behest of Prashant Kishor and not Mamata Banerjee,” Girish Chodankar, Congress President, Goa told The New Indian.
Having engineered the defection of Faleiro, Congress loyalists believe that Kishor could desperately be trying to drive a wedge between them after he failed to secure a key post in Congress following his one-on-one meet with Rahul and Priyanka on July 13, this year.
“In my view, it should be a matter of professional ethics and morality that if you are unable to get what you desire, then you just forget about it. You don’t start publicly running down a party because it did not click. It’s surprising and disappointing at the same time, as far as I am concerned,” former Union minister and senior Congress leader, Salman Khurshid told The New Indian.
“I am not aware of any details or a reason for him being upset. There is nothing that we have heard in the party that calls for this level of disquiet, as far as he is concerned. It’s very surprising and disappointing,” Khurshid added.
Some say that Kishor is eyeing a bigger position in the TMC now, an ambition which remained unfulfilled during his dalliances with AAP, JDU, DMK and BJP amid a meteoric rise that he saw in last seven years.
Though Bihar CM Nitish Kumar had made him vice president of Janta Dal (United) in October 2018, Kishore’s love affair with the four-time chief minister ran into rough weather after he publicly began to criticise his policies and party-handling, a charge that JDU loyalists couldn’t tolerate by a new-entrant.
“In really short time that he spent within JDU, he began calling our leaders by their first names and talking behind their back. That’s not how a poll strategist should behave. He did the same to Capt Amarinder, Gandhis, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal. The efforts and struggle of others were being discredited by him as his ambition is to see himself at 7, LKM in one role or the other,” said a senior JDU leader on the condition of anonymity.
In Goa, while BJP called upon former Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis to make him election-in charge in September and use his experience of running the neighbouring state for five years, AAP promised an allowance for unemployed youth, 80 per cent reservation in private jobs for locals and Rs 3,000 subsistence in Goa when Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal toured the state to campaign for his party the same month.
Till recently, AAP supremo has been regularly sending his spokesperson and MLA Raghav Chadha and Satyendra Jain to attack BJP government over power situation.
On the other hand, BJP, which has been in power in Goa since 2012 and is eyeing a third consecutive term, believes that growing animosity between TMC and Congress would only help them in gaining more seats.
“2019 saw mahamilavat of SP, BSP and Congress gunning for UP, during and after Lok Sabha. If Kishor was serious about his work with Congress and AAP in the past, he wouldn’t have allowed the TMC to enter Goa. For us, the enemy is still the same,” said a BJP leader in Goa.
Congress Goa-in charge P. Chidambaram refused to comment on Kishor directly but indicated that his equivalence between winning the Goa Assembly polls and winning the general elections could be a warning sign to Kishor on building prospects for TMC in 2024. “We won the Goa elections in 2007 and we won the Parliament elections in 2009,” he had said in an address to party workers in Siolim.
It’s still unclear why Kishor, who likes to maintain his public image different from his appointments and government positions didn’t have a stint either in JDU or Congress in Punjab where he was made principal advisor to then CM Capt Amarinder and given a cabinet minister status with a fully furnished residence, executive class travel by air and train apart from Rs 5000 hospitality bonus apart from seven-member personal staff including peons and personal assistants.
Meanwhile, Kishor has maintained a veil of secrecy over his role at the I-PAC which on its website — www.indianpac.com — claims to be a “platform of choice for students and young professionals to participate in and make meaningful contribution to political affairs and governance of the country, without necessarily being part of a political party.”
With the coastal state becoming a waterloo, it remains to be seen whether Kishor bites the dust or is able to salvage some pride for his newly found political affiliation with TMC.
Calls and messages to Kishor over the accusations by the Congress remained unanswered by the time of filing this report.