Political strategist Prashant Kishor said on Monday it was time for him to go straight to the people, creating a buzz in political circles. There is speculation that he could launch a new political party, with an announcement coming as early as May 5, HT learns.
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His quest to be a meaningful participant in democracy and help shape pro-people politics has led to a 10-year roller coaster ride, Kishor said in a tweet. It was time to go to the real masters, the people, to better understand the issues and the path to good governance, he added. The start will be from his home state of Bihar, the polls strategist said.
The move did not come with much surprise from political observers in the state. Not only has the 45-year-old been toying with the idea of entering politics in his home country for some time (he was born in Sasaram), but the announcement came at a time when Bihar is in full mutation.
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Kishor’s announcement of ‘Jan Suraaj’ (good governance of the people) comes at a time of rumors that Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is facing an existential crisis within the ruling coalition. While the official position of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is that there is no question of a change of chief ministry in the state — the BJP is the largest party in the legislature, with 77 for the Janata Dal (United) or JD (U)’s 43 – talk of moving to Delhi or resigning refuses to go away. Many BJP members talk privately about how after the 2020 elections, it was felt that the BJP would have more say, but there is some resentment among the BJP leaders, even some ministers, that the chief minister’s office controls everything.
Interestingly, Kishor, who is in Patna, was supposed to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday evening, but did not. He said, “I couldn’t go there (and meet Kumar). It could have been misinterpreted. Kishor met Nitish Kumar earlier this year – the apparent reason was to wish him well after Covid – and it’s always been clear there’s an open channel between the two.
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Kishor, who previously worked with parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party and Trinamool Congress, was expelled from Janata Dal (United) in January 2020 for criticizing the party’s support for the Citizenship Amendment Act.
He refused an offer join Congress last week, but held talks with political and party leaders in Patna on Monday.
“Prashant Kishor tries to make an AAP [Aam Aadmi Party] in Bihar,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.
His effort may target people who are uncomfortable with any of the existing policy waivers, said a person who knows Kishor.
Opinions are divided on how he will go about it.
“Until now he was working for political parties, and now he wants to own one. Everyone is free to make their own opinion. But Bihar is going to change and people are going to start following him, I don’t see that happening A new party cannot cause political upheaval in Bihar,” said DM Diwakar, former director of the AN Sinha Institute for Social Studies, an autonomous institution.
Read also | Prashant Kishor’s date with political parties over the years
But the BJP chief quoted above said Kishor’s game plan could be to get enough votes to tip the scales in the state. This person explained how the BJP has a 35% vote share, the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) 35%, Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) 15% and the Congress and other parties such as the left, the remaining 15%. “Two groups have to be together to be in power in Bihar and in 2015 we had Nitish and RJD coming together and now we have the other two together. They will stay together until there is another option.” And Kishor, the person added, “knows people want an alternative.”
Perhaps Kishor hopes to be that agent of change in his home country. Although he dismissed this theory of being “the new AAP” and declined to comment further, it is well known that he announced a similar move after his split from JD(U) over the backing of the party to the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). That was two years ago (just before the pandemic), and at the time he spoke to the press about his initiative to attract like-minded people to the state and said he could enroll a million people in a movement – but that initiative collapsed.
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“The political understanding and consciousness of the people of Bihar are different,” Diwakar said. “Caste and religion are the main pillars of a party. Kishor may like to do issue-based politics, which won’t help him immediately.
The BJP state criticized the move.
“Prashant Kishor is neither a social scientist nor a political scientist,” BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand said in a forceful statement. “He’s a power broker and middleman.”
Read also | Congress could still act on some of Prashant Kishor’s ideas
However, the top BJP leader quoted above said Kishor could eat away at the party’s Brahmin base if he launches a party.
JD(U), was more reserved in its response.
“Kishor has been directly or indirectly involved in politics for a decade now. Everyone has the freedom to form an organization,” said JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha. “Sometimes he also tried to mobilize young people, but nothing concrete came of it.”
Analysts said the new parties failed to perform in the state.
“In the last parliamentary elections, Plurals Party did not achieve success,” said Gyanendra Yadav, an associate professor of sociology at the College of Commerce in Patna. “The state has seen a reservation policy based on caste and PK (Prashant Kishor) will have to look for another mainstream.”