MAY 24, 2019
with YSR Jagan Mohan Reddy
Prashant Kishor is the man with the Midas touch in Indian elections turning almost every political entity that he has touched into gold. He has proved his mastery again propelling the YSR Congress of to power with overwhelming majority and handing over a shocking defeat to tech-man politician N Chandrababu Naidu.
The YSR Congress has won 22 of 25 Lok Sabha seats and more than 150 of 175 assembly segments in the polls. Jagan Mohan founded YSR Congress in 2011 breaking away from the Congress.
His father YS Rajasekhara Reddy was the Andhra Pradesh CM when he died in a plane crash in 2009. The Congress chose to ignore Jagan Mohan’s claim to Reddy Senior’s legacy leading to his exit from the party. But he failed to win power in 2014 election in Andhra Pradesh.
Enters Prashant Kishor
Jagan Mohan’s YSR Congress had lost the 2014 assembly election primarily due to lack of organisational strength. It had polled 45.4 per cent votes for 66 seats against TDP’s 48.2 per cent votes for 103 seats.
Five years later, Prashant Kishor and his India Political Action Committee team identified this weakness and helped Jagan Mohan build an organisation right from the booth level structures.
This is similar to BJP president Amit Shah’s strategy of building booth level committees in each of the constituencies in the state going to the polls. Meticulous planning by Prashant Kishor did wonders for Jagan Mohan ensuring his chair in the Chief Minister’s Office in Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan Mohan sought his consultancy at a time when Prashant Kishor was practically a leader-without-work in the Janata Dal-United of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, an ally of the BJP. The two came together in 2017.
Prashant Kishor first hit headlines after helping Narendra Modi win 2012 Gujarat assembly election and become chief minister for the third time beating anti-incumbency. He entered Andhra Pradesh election campaign with stunning victory of Narendra Modi-powered BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha election, BJP’s rout in Bihar state polls in 2015, return of the Congress to power in Punjab to his credit.
How did he do it in Andhra Pradesh?
Prashant Kishor and his team planned an outreach programme for Jagan Mohan and his YSR Congress to establish a direct connect with the voters in Andhra Pradesh.
Jagan Mohan set out on a 15-month Praja Sankalpa Padayatra to achieve this goal. The YSR Congress released a campaign song, ‘Raavali Jagan Kaavali Jagan’ (we want Jagan, Jagan should win), which is said to have become the most watched election theme song with around 2.25 crore viewership.
The PK team also coined catchy slogans to set a narrative in favour of Jagan Mohan and to cash in on the anti-incumbency against Naidu government. ‘Ninnu Nammam Babu’ (we don’t trust you Chandrababu) and ‘Bye-Bye Babu’ were catchphrases in Andhra Pradesh this election.
TDP of Naidu also launched a slogan, ‘Malli Nuvve Raavali’ (you should come again) to counter Jagan Mohan’s. But by the time it came out, the stage had been set for the exit of Naidu, who was hoping to retain power in Andhra Pradesh and harbouring a national ambition should the BJP falters in the Lok Sabha election.
But powered by Prashant Kishor and his team, Jagan Mohan’s juggernaut derailed all plans and thwarted all ambitions of a national role that Naidu was charting out for himself.
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PK versus PK versus PK
Election in Andhra Pradesh was a curious case of fight among three PKs, two of them being direct stakeholders. Naidu hoped to retain power with his populist scheme, Pasupu-Kumkuma.
Pasupu-Kumkuma is a scheme under which the Naidu government attempt to target women voters. A cash support of Rs 10,000 was provided to around 95 lakh women of self-help groups. But this PK did not find many supporters in election as TDP could win only 22 seats in the 175-member assembly.
Another PK in Andhra Pradesh election was Pawan Kalyan, who lost from both Gajuwaka and Bhimavaram assembly seats. His Janasena Party could win only one seat, Razole.
On the other hand, Prashant Kishor employed a team of nearly 400 personnel of his Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC) to work on the field YSR Congress MPs, MLAs and candidates. Each team was given defined objectives to manage electioneering through campaigns on the ground and social media.
In the end, Fan (the election symbol of the YSR Congress) blew away the Bicycle (of TDP) and held the Empty Glass (of Janasena Party) at a safe distance in the Andhra Pradesh elections.
Prashant Kishor, the proven master
Following his success in 2012 Gujarat assembly election, Prashant Kishor became an integral part of the Modi-fied BJP, which was going through a transition in leadership from LK Advani to Narendra Modi.
By 2013, Modi had become the obvious choice for BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. The official decision followed a few months later and with parting of ways of BJP’s most trusted ally JD-U. Prashant Kishor came onboard and the combination launched a relentless and high-octane campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Election programmes like ‘Chai pe Charcha’ 3-D rallies, Run for Unity, Manthan and massive social media outreach campaign was launched. Brand Modi was taken to the next level projecting him as the symbol of aspiration and development.
A year later, Prashant Kishor was part of Nitish Kumar’s team in assembly election in Bihar, where the BJP-led NDA had won 31 of 40 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. The JDU and the RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav joined hands to form a grand-alliance. The Congress was also part of the alliance. Prashant Kishor played key role in the formulation.
When Bihar voted in the assembly election, the Modi wave had been halted. The JDU-RJD-Congress alliance won 172 of 243 assembly seats and the BJP-led NDA could win only 57. The BJP’s tally was 53.
Two years later, Prashant Kishor helped the Congress win Punjab assembly election. The Congress was out of power in Punjab for 10 years. Prashant Kishor worked with Captain Amarinder Singh, who was open to his ideas of outreach programmes. The two worked in harmony and Captain emerged as a victorious general.
When Congress, RJD did heed his advice
Bihar success established him as a master of elections. The Congress approached him for Uttar Pradesh assembly election in 2017. The party had been out of power in Uttar Pradesh for nearly three decades. Bringing it back to power was an uphill task and it remains the only blemish on the spotless track record of Prashant Kishor.
During Uttar Pradesh election, Prashant Kishor’s ideas including suggestion to declare Priyanka Gandhi Vadra as the chief ministerial candidate did not go down well with the Congress leadership. Prashant Kishor was told to “mind” his business in a limited capacity and try not to interfere with the equation of the Congress’s first family.
The Congress failed miserably in the Uttar Pradesh election winning only seven seats in the 403-member house. The BJP won 312 seats on its own. The Samajwadi Party was voted out of power with 47 seats while the Bahujan Samaj Party won 19. Incidentally, Prashant Kishor had suggested a Bihar-like grand-alliance of the SP and the BSP to counter the BJP’s challenge in the state. This happened in the Lok Sabha but did not work for the parties.
In Bihar, Prashant Kishor would be feeling vindicated after RJD’s rout in Bihar in the Lok Sabha election. Before Nitish Kumar decided to get back to the NDA’s fold in 2017 due to growing discomfort with the RJD, Prashant Kishor had suggested a merger of the two parties to counter BJP’s rising prospects in Bihar.
He is said to have held half-a-dozen meetings with Lalu Prasad, the RJD chief in this connection but his son Tejashwi Yadav blocked the proposal. The Lok Sabha election results for RJD proved Prashant Kishor right in his assessment of the direction of politics in the state.
Courtesy: India Today