Until last week, many believed the renowned political strategist Prashant Kishor, who shaped the election campaigns of many top politicians in the country, was only “technically” associated with the ruling Janata Dal United (JD(U)), which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar heads. After all, Kishor had not been taking part in the party affairs for the past several weeks since his appointment as the JD(U)’s vice-president in October last year.
Moreover, he remained completely away from Bihar all through the 40-day-long poll campaign. His tweet in March that he is a “learner” in the party confirmed his role in the JD(U).
Given this background, everyone thought the JD(U) would take note of Kishor’s move to work for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC). Kishor met Banerjee in Kolkata on Thursday (June 6) and reportedly agreed to work for the TMC, which currently faces a challenge from a resurgent BJP .
There were two reasons for this belief — first, Kishor happens to be the vice-president of the JD(U), which is an ally of the BJP in Bihar. Second, Kishor is lending his services to the TMC, which is at war with JD(U)’s key ally BJP in West Bengal.
Much to everyone surprise, the JD(U) defended Kishor, forget sacking him for agreeing to work for its ally’s “enemy number one.” What makes this more interesting is that the defence has come from none other than KC Tyagi, the principal general secretary of the JD(U) and national spokesperson. “Apart from the JD(U) vice president, Prashant Kishor also happens to be the director of his company, Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), which has been lending its services to the political parties during election time. He doesn’t have any political ideology or philosophy. He has worked for Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Nitish Kumar and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, and now will work for Mamata Banerjee. I don’t see any contradiction in it,” Tyagi said.
He explained it in another way: “Does any doctor ask about the political philosophy of patients visiting him for treatment? Or, don’t people across political leanings avail the services of the government-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)?” Tyagi asserted that Kishor doesn’t endorse the political ideology of the West Bengal Chief Minister. “He is just doing a technical job and we don’t have any problem with him,” he explained.
This means the JD(U) has given a ‘green signal’ to its party vice president to ensure Banerjee’s TMC wins in West Bengal in the next Assembly elections due in 2021. In the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls, the BJP managed to win 18 Lok Sabha seats — an increase of 16 seats — against TMC’s 22 out of the 42 seats in the state. It’s this increasing strength of the BJP that has Banerjee unnerved and forced her to enter into a deal with the poll strategist.
The million dollar question now being debated in the political circle is whether the Bihar Chief Minister is tacitly helping Banerjee in her fight against the BJP. This is being asked under the notion that an “enemy’s enemy is a friend.”
Although Kumar claims all is fine with the NDA and that the two parties will contest together in the next Assembly elections, a chain of political developments in the past fortnight indicate a divide between the two NDA partners. Trouble started after the BJP offered just one ministerial berth to the JD(U) in the just-formed Narendra Modi government although both the parties won almost an equal number of LS seats in Bihar — BJP won 17 and the JD(U) bagged 16. This was an insult to the Chief Minister who single-handedly launched and ran the then poll campaign in Bihar for over a month.
Kumar reacted by first rejecting the offer and then denying any berth to the BJP in his cabinet during its expansion. This was followed by the both parties boycotting each other’s Iftar parties but it blew up when Union minister Giriraj Singh, considered close to Prime Minister Modi, launched a frontal attack on the Chief Minister for hosting Iftar parties for Muslims but ignoring Hindu festivals.
Both Kumar and the BJP appear to be involved in a cat-and-mouse game now. JD(U)’s ‘go ahead’ to Kishor to work for the TMC is a clear indication of the curious turn the whole political situation is slowly taking ahead of next year’s state polls in Bihar.