India’s first Western-style political consultant, Prashant Kishor aka PK, has travelled a long distance in politics over the last eight years. Once seen as the man with the golden touch on the electoral landscape, he has descended into inconsistency and unpredictability, driven by his own ambition. The man who got unprecedented victories for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, Arvind Kejriwal, MK Stalin and Jagan Mohan Reddy with his out-of-the-box strategies, and campaigns that flummoxed even the tallest politicians, now looks like a man who is stymied and even disoriented because he tried to take a plunge into politics himself. While strategising and designing political narratives for various parties, PK was engulfed with the illusion that he himself could run a political party while keeping the business interests of his poll strategy group, Indian Action Political Committee (IPAC), alive. What PK perhaps did not realise was that he would destroy his credibility by keeping his foot in both camps.
After he burnt his bridges with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, PK tried to make inroads into the Grand Old Party, the Congress, this year in March only to face frustration. Thereafter he announced that he would embark on a 3000-km political yatra from West Champaran from October 2 and that he would have nothing to do with IPAC as it’s in good hands. Trying to make Bihar his political karmabhoomi, Mr Kishor continued to target Nitish Kumar on misgovernance; in fact, when the Bihar CM joined hands with Tejasvi Yadav recently to form the Mahagathbandhan government in Bihar, Mr Kishor went to the extent of saying that Nitish should become the brand ambassador of the glue company Fevicol, accusing him of political opportunism in his desperation to remain in the CM’s chair. PK even said that this alliance would be of no national consequence and that it’s just a Bihar development. The pitch was queered further when Mr Kumar in response called PK a BJP agent. PK tweeted pictures of Mr Kumar bowing before PM Narendra Modi, but then deleted those photographs the moment West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee said that she along with Nitish Kumar, Hemant Soren and other parties would fight the BJP in 2024. PK’s office aide said they would retweet those pictures afresh but it was evident that PK did not want to hamper his business interests or muddy relations with Ms Banerjee, and thought it prudent to explore an opportunity for political strategy with the Opposition front.
With Mr Kumar on the opposition centre stage, it’s clearly evident that PK’s political ambitions at least in Bihar will be difficult to achieve, especially after the formation of the Mahagathbandhan government. Mr Kishor might not say in clear words but it’s almost certain that he has kept his political aims aside after eyeing business prospects with the Opposition alliance. He also knows very well that political dynamics will not favour him after changing equations in Bihar, so it’s better to keep up business interests.
PK has deftly learnt the art of U-turns as they say in politics, and how to follow the flow. Hence after diplomat and former advisor to Bihar CM Pawan Varma met Nitish Kumar, PK didn’t take much time in consummating his own meeting with Mr Kumar. What came of that meeting is anybody’s guess except for a cryptic tweet by PK dismissing a reunion.
So the big question now is, does Nitish Kumar need PK? After all the ignominy, even though Mr Kumar is on a weak wicket with few MLAs under his party fold, in terms of charisma he has an edge over Mr Kishor. The Bihar CM might not need PK to do the data crunching or drive the campaigns, as he knows Bihar only too well. And if the Bihar CM can put together a national rainbow grand alliance, then PK’s utility would not only get further diminished but become practically a cipher. Mr Kishor has lost the Midas touch and is a man on the decline. Will he able to pull a rabbit from his hat for 2024, is something to watch out — for but if he is unable to pull off something and if the Opposition comes together at Nitish Kumar’s behest, India will definitely echo one sentiment, and that is that political parties are self-sufficient, and don’t need strategists like PK any more. It’s clearly a do-or-die battle for Prashant Kishor to keep himself relevant.
Neelu Vyas is a senior television anchor and consulting editor with Satya Hindi