Ace election strategist Prashant Kishor, adding Bengal to his list of remarkable successes, dropped a bombshell today as he announced that he was done and “quitting this space”.
“I do not want to continue what I am doing. I have done enough. It is time for me to take a break and do something else in life. I want to quit this space,” Mr Kishor told NDTV in an exclusive interview.
On whether he would rejoin politics, he said: “I am a failed politician. I have to go back and see what I have to do.” On a lighter note, he talked about going with his family to Assam and “doing tea-gardening”.
Prashant Kishor’s dramatic announcement came on a day he delivered on a dare back in December. “For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!” he had tweeted on December 21.
For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal
PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) December 21, 2020
Grinning with satisfaction, Mr Kishore said while the results today seemed one-sided in favour of the Trinamool Congress, it was a tough fight. “We went through hell. The Election Commission was blatantly partial and made our campaign difficult,” he said.
But he added that he was always confident the Trinamool would do very well, more than people were willing to give it. “Mr Modi’s (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) popularity won’t mean BJP will win all elections,” the poll strategist added.
He went on to describe exactly why this election was more challenging than most. Unprecedented religious polarization was a big factor, he said, asserting that “the bogey of communalism” can only go so far.
“There was large-scale polarisation across Bengal and the election commission, which must ensure it that doesn’t happen. They sat mum and did nothing about it. In my six-seven years as an election strategist, I have never ever seen this scale of religious polarisation ever in any state. The entire campaign and the sheer magnitude of the ‘Jai Shri Ram’ campaign was unprecedented,” Mr Kishor said.
He noted that attacking Mamata Banerjee did not work for the BJP. “In defeat, people must be humble enough to acknowledge where they went wrong,” he said.
According to him, Mamata Banerjee’s ability to connect with the masses was vastly underestimated. “One defining moment of the campaign for us was when Mamata Banerjee got injured (in Nandigram) and was immobile. We were worried because she was the only one we depended on for the entire campaign. So that was definitely a moment which was challenging,” he said.
The BJP repeatedly alleged that Ms Banerjee’s campaign in a wheelchair was a stunt. “The people have spoken loud and clear,” said the strategist.
Mr Kishor took on a Trinamool greatly weakened by an exodus of over 30 leaders including Suvendu Adhikari. Many of those who left had openly resented what they called Mr Kishor’s interference in the Trinamool’s campaign decisions, including choice of candidates.
Mr Kishor’s past credits include the BJP’s 2014 campaign and Nitish Kumar’s 2015 win in Bihar. Bengal was arguably one of his most difficult outings, with the BJP investing big in its campaign. Mr Kishor’s Clubhouse chat, in which he appeared assess the BJP as a formidable political force in Bengal that cannot be underestimated, went viral with the BJP gloating that it was a sign he was conceding defeat.
But the December tweet predicting a double figure tally for the BJP inspired a blizzard on social media today. When very early leads from Bengal showed the BJP ahead in a very close fight, some started calling for career options for Mr Kishor. Then came the turnaround and the trends and memes changed.
— Bhushan Gawande (@AB_Gawande) May 2, 2021
You prevail 👍👍 #PrashantKishore
— Wg Cdr Anuma Acharya (Retd) (@AnumaVidisha) May 2, 2021
— Exsecular (@ExSecular) May 2, 2021
Prashant Kishor and EVMs are the real winners.
— Rahul Roushan (@rahulroushan) May 2, 2021
Mr Kishor said the Trinamool’s victory must be taken by other opposition parties as a message that they too can stand up to the BJP and give them a contest.