“You can sell a horse as a horse but you cannot sell a donkey as a racehorse.”
For Prashant Kishor, this proverb rings true today. As surveys assessing the electoral ground realities of Uttar Pradesh emerge, perhaps the realisation is finally dawning that some products are too lousy even for the best in the business to market.
But then again, the best in any business makes the impossible possible. It’s the reason many are now beginning to doubt if Kishor is really the genius he was made out to be, if he is the imperative winning quotient like the mainstream media has often proclaimed.
Many believe he simply rode the Modi wave in 2014, which was naturally propped up by the Gujarat model and unprecedented anti-incumbency. In Bihar last year, he successfully relegated Nitish Kumar from being in control to playing second fiddle.
Earlier this week, the India Today group put out its survey. According to it, the BJP is in pole position, the regional outfits BSP and SP take second and third places, while the Congress is placed fourth.
The Congress is likely to win eight to twelve of the four-hundred and four seats in the state assembly. This is a fraction of the seventy to hundred seats they were targeting when Kishor was initially appointed.
The surgical strikes in Pakistan to avenge what was inflicted upon India in Uri, seems to be the reason why large sections of the Indian population are standing firmly with the ruling party BJP. According to the same survey, three other states- Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur- will also vote BJP.
The prime minister ordered his colleagues not to use the surgical strike for political brownie points, but the issue was politicized nonetheless. To what extent the various allegations and counter-allegations made before television cameras are likely to affect electoral outcomes is unknown, but the masses seem to have realised that after many years there is genuine political will to take on the Pakis.
The Congress Party, insecure about its past record with Pakistan and the impact of the strike on the Indian electorate, has responded in a confused manner. From supporting the government to making barbs about how the government trades with the blood of soldiers to claiming that they conducted similar strikes too, the party seems to be out of control.
When the Congress Party came up with a grand plan to stage a national comeback via Uttar Pradesh, its president Sonia Gandhi came down to Varanasi, prime minister Modi’s constituency, to set things into motion. She fell ill there, and was rushed to hospital. This happened in the beginning of August, and ever since, the party seems to be in complete disarray.
Prashant Kishor’s authority over election strategy has been rejected by several Congress leaders. Murmurs about his wings being clipped with every passing day, and the denial of resources to carry out his operations, are rife.
With limited resources, general dissent and multiple self-goals, Uttar Pradesh is increasingly looking like Prashant Kishor ’s waterloo.
His much hyped ‘khat pe charcha’ campaign, in similar lines to Narendra Modi’s ‘chai pe charcha’ campaign which he envisaged, has been an utter failure. The images of peasants waiting for Rahul Gandhi to leave, picking up the cots and heading home, were flashed across every household in the country.
Kishor’s attempts to rope in the other Gandhi sibling, Priyanka, also seem to have hit several roadblocks. The manner in which the mainstream media is abuzz every few days about Priyanka hitting the campaign trail, is strikingly similar to the way it is abuzz every few months about her brother being elevated to the post of Congress president.
The Congress Party currently has twenty-nine members in the Uttar Pradesh assembly. With anti-incumbency both in the central and state levels, one would have expected them to get their act together before the Uttar Pradesh elections. If India Today’s survey is anything to go by, it speaks as much about the party’s continuing decline as it does about Kishor’s incompetence.
Perhaps things would have been different if Sonia Gandhi was playing a more proactive role. Initially, when Prashant Kishor was roped in and the party was setting its house in order, the cadre was regaining his enthusiasm and new inroads were being made. But the tides have turned again.
According to sources, senior Congress leader and former state president Rita Bahuguna is all set to jump ship and join the BJP. Can there be a clearer sign as to which way the wind is blowing?
The mainstream media pitted Prashant Kishor as Amit Shah’s nemesis during the Bihar polls, due to their antagonistic past. For Kishor to remain in the game, it is essential to have a perfect record for he has no political base to fall back upon. As of now, it looks as if Shah will have the last laugh.