He was just another aam admi,a public health activist to be precise, working with the United Nations, when then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi spotted his potentials and hired him to work on his social sector policies.
Soon, this tech-savvy man in his mid-30s helped Modi return to power in the state in 2012 with a clear majority, but few were aware of his contributions as a poll campaign strategist then.
Things changed when Narendra Modi’s thumping victory in the 2014 general elections swung the spotlight directly on Prashant Kishor.
The political class started taking note of him and the country became aware of the role of this tribe of people, called political strategists, who were gaining reputation as modern-age kingmakers.
Political strategists are not a new breed. They had been there, but used to slog it out behind the scene, rather in obscurity, and preferred to keep it a low profile till the 2014 general elections. And thus Kishore’s success, and popularity, was a trend setter of sorts.
In 2015, Kishor switched allegiance to JDU after an alleged fallout with BJP national president and Modi’s confidante Amit Shah. The result: despite a perceived Modi wave, the JDU-RJD-Congress Grand Alliance swept the Bihar Assembly elections, riding piggyback on Kishor and his team of ‘political techies’.
Creating A Wave in 2014
Kishor and his organization Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) — earlier Citizens for Accountable Governance — made the 2014 BJP election campaigns remarkable affairs with their backroom machinations. He was the brain behind quirky coinages like ‘chai pe charcha’, which became a huge hit overnight. “Aab ki baar Modi sarkar” and “Ghar ghar Modi” sat on the lips of BJP supporters and public in the hustings. His idiosyncratic methods gave sleepless nights to the Opposition, mounting pressure on the strategists belonging to rival parties.
The Kiss of Tech
It was Kishor who first understood that traditional meetings would no longer be enough to strike a chord with all sections of voters, especially the youth who comprise a major chunk of the electorate.
He steered the BJP campaign onto social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to take Modi’s message to the tech savvy millennials. His success story, many believe, was as phenomenal as that of the BJP in the recent times, paving the way for a breed of professionals, who were, till then, unknown to a large portion of Indian masses as well as politicians.
High on Popularity; JDU’s Game Changer
After the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Kishor’s popularity knew no bounds and his office was heaped with requests from politicians across the country to design their campaigns and get them instant success. In 2015, the BJP’s blue-eyed boy made a quiet exit and entered JDU’s backroom. Like a seasoned professional, he was now weaving the fortune of the Grand Alliance, taking head on his previous boss Modi.
Kishor’s technique, as usual, was unique. He dotted the streets leading to Modi’s meeting venues with posters of Nitish. Every time Modi addressed a rally, Nitish held a counter rally to counter his claims with facts and figures provided by Kishor’s research team. His ‘Ghar Ghar Dastak’ outreach campaign also paid off. The Grand Alliance came to power in the state with a thumping majority.
Chink in Kishor’s Armour
However, the Congress’s embarrassing drubbing in the 2017 UP elections dented the perception about Kishor’s invincibility and undermined the faith in his professed Midas touch.
His supporters, nevertheless, claimed that unlike Nitish’s small regional party, Congress apparently didn’t allow him a complete free hand to take final calls on all campaign strategies. He and his team were merely supporting the campaign from the sidelines. Many believe that Kishor’s role has been only that of a brand promoter, and he cannot pop up a charismatic leader who can win elections. Thus, he cannot be held responsible entirely for someone’s win or defeat.
True Professional Who Knows How to Bounce Back
Kishor’s rise to prominence in the country’s political firmament has been phenomenal. He is considered to be India’s first cross-party advocacy group that seeks to support the election of visionary leaders to power. His band of black T-shirt boys and girls do the groundwork for an ideal pitch on which rests the table top strategy that may even trump machinations of seasoned politicians. Despite his recent failure, he remains under the glare of many political parties and his next alliance — be it with Congress, BJP or any other regional party — will surely send across a cautionary message to the opposition camps.