After his several advisory stints with different political parties, Prashant Kishor now has two major projects at hand, one with his widely covered role in the upcoming assembly elections for the TMC and another with Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, which didn’t get the spotlight.
Several media reports had earlier indicated that Shiv Sena had roped in Prashant Kishor to give the Shiv Sena scion Aditya Thackeray an edge in the national and upcoming state elections. Reports and speculations about Prashant Kishor had started when the Political Advisor and JD(U) Vice President had met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray just months before the Lok Sabha elections in February 2019.
A Sena MP had also confirmed the development and said, “Uddhav ji had a detailed meeting with Prashant Kishor and he will play a strategic role in the election for Shiv Sena.” This move by Shiv Sena came at a time when both the parties were struggling to reach common ground regarding the Lok Sabha elections. Several Shiv Sena leaders were also seen making critical and provocative comments about BJP; Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut had also said, “Shiv Sena was, is, and would be the big brother in Maharashtra”.
Shiv Sena through its mouthpiece ‘Samana’ had also written several critical articles about the Modi government and also praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee which many saw as a bid to improve their standing at the negotiation tables. Nonetheless, these moves coming out of a decades-old alliance partner of the BJP clearly reeked of Prashant Kishor’s involvement.
Now as the Lok Sabha elections are over, Shiv Sena’s focus has been on improving its standing in the assembly elections. According to sources, Prashant’s political advocacy team, I-PAC (Indian Political Advisory Committee) has already outlined the campaign plans, “The team which is targeting youth, women, and senior citizens is trying to project Sena as their Savior.” Earlier Sanjay Raut had also pushed the young Shiv Sena leader for the top post “Maharashtra has got a dynamic youth leader in the form of Aditya and people of all faiths are looking up to him with hope,” he had said. Aaditya’s Jan Ashirwad Yatra, which will cover 4,000 km across Maharashtra, is also said to be a part of Prashant Kishor’s strategy.
Similar comments from the Shiv Sena camp are been seen as pressure tactics by the party to secure a favourable position in the upcoming assembly elections in the state. However, Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has decisively ended all the speculations and also cleared BJP’s stand on the issue and said, “I have already said that I will be coming back as the Chief Minister. And I am not the CM of only the BJP, but of the Sena, RPI and the RSP as well.” said CM Fadnavis.
Currently out of the total 288 elected seats in the assembly BJP holds a total of 125 while its alliance partner Shiv Sena holds 60. With its massive victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP surely has an upper hand both in public support and continued momentum and looking at the current trends BJP certainly is capable of going on the upcoming electoral contest on its own.
Prashant Kishor who came in the limelight after a successful campaign for Narendra Modi in 2014, however, lost his sheen after the mega electoral victory. Several of his later projects be it his association with the Congress in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh assembly elections had clearly failed in a head to head contest with the BJP and Congress had to face a humiliating defeat in both the states.
Few leaders of the Uttar Pradesh Congress had also complained to the party leadership about Kishor’s “autocratic style of functioning” and “unsolicited interference” in organizational matters, and also pointed out “unilateral decision” to summon the meetings of party officials. The Congress in Uttrakhand dropped from 32 seats to just 11 in the 2017 assembly elections; in Uttar Pradesh, the performance was even worse despite fighting in alliance with the incumbent Samajwadi Party. The grand old party just won on 7 out of the total 105 seats it contested on, with a dip of 21 seats from the last assembly elections. Except in Punjab, where anti-incumbency had a major role to play.
Jumping of ships by many leaders in West Bengal is also an indication of Prashant Kishor’s failing synergy with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. On all major fronts in direct competition with the BJP, Prashant Kishor has been largely ineffective and now Shiv Sena trying to leverage on his political acumen is sure to learn the lesson in a hard way.