UP Election 2017: Prashant Kishor's agenda-less strategies hurting Congress' chances of victory
Prashant Kishor's shallow political understanding of politics comes across in the fact that he is trying to drive the Congress forward without an engine of agendas in place
About a year ago, the Bihar Government appointed Prashant Kishor as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s key advisor. He continues to serve as a member of the governing body of the Bihar Vikas Mission and enjoys certain rights and privileges in the state. Moreover, it is widely speculated that Kishor is associated with this citizen alliance, which has been granted Rs 9.31 crore by the central government to create the Bihar 2025 vision document.
Such is the state of the affairs that Kishor’s absence from his advisory role and his sustained lack of involvement with the Bihar Vikas Mission are a subject of much resentment in the state’s political and administrative circuits. Across the border, he is failing on other counts: particularly at leading the Indian National Congress towards victory in Uttar Pradesh. The reason that is doing the rounds is Kishor's shallow political understanding which comes across in the fact that he is trying to drive the Congress forward without an engine of agendas in place.
It should be noted that both Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar who have been successful and also associated with Kishor’s political strategies, had substantive political agendas and party alliances backing them. Modi and Nitish have a reputation for transforming their promises into action, which is why Kishor’s role in their electoral victories is only marginal and certainly not determinant. Otherwise, Modi would have certainly utilised the services of Kishor during the four state elections held shortly after the parliamentary elections of 2014.
There are credible examples even in the congress party of how issues are raised and worked upon, but Kishor could well be unaware of these. For instance, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had swept the 1971 Lok Sabha elections on the strength of the "Gareebi Hatao" slogan which she raised in 1969. Indira had not merely outlined issues but taken far-reaching steps such as the nationalisation of banks, which had raised hope amongst the poor that they would now be eligible and entitled to obtain loans from public sector banks. Likewise, by abolishing the privy purses and special privileges of the erstwhile royal princesses, Indira convinced the common man that she would utilise the money for their benefit. It’s another matter that subsequently and for other reasons, she fell from grace. As a prime minister during the 80s, Rajiv Gandhi had established his credentials as "Mr Clean" by abruptly removing three allegedly corrupt chief ministers. If scandals such as Bofors had not arisen and sullied his image thereafter, he would have continued to be successful.
There have been indicators that Kishor has been in communication with Rahul Gandhi for some time now and was assisting him in setting up a hospital in Raebareli. By the time he associated himself with the Congress, the party had lost power in the centre. Had Kishor understood the strategies of the earlier Gandhi prime ministers, his advice could have perhaps precluded the defeat of the Congress in those states where it had held power. However, even from these states, the whiff of scandals continues to emerge.
It is too much to expect a non-party functionary like Kishor to grasp the acumen of these tall leaders of the Congress. On Kishor’s advice, the Congress resorted to some "novel" and scatter-brained projects such as the disastrous gifting of cots and raising worn out and staple slogans. Initially, the Congress was attempting to go alone in Uttar Pradesh but found its credibility dipping. This is when Rahul sought to form an alliance with the SP largely on the model adopted by his party in Bihar. In December 2016, Rahul made a public statement that the entire exercise of demonetisation has benefited only 50 top families. It is not clear whether he had stated this on the advice of Kishor and if not, it begs the question as to why Kishor didn’t dissuade Rahul from making such far-fetched claim. Now, should the Congress come to power in Uttar Pradesh, the credit for its victory shall go to the alliance rather than to the party or the machinations of Kishor. Just prior to the commencement of the electoral process, a leading Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader Manmohan Vaidya, had made an outlandish comment regarding reservation and played into the hands of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). It must be conceded that Kishor did play some role in concluding this alliance.
During the Bihar elections of 2015, Kishor had played the role of a catalyst in forming the alliance between the RJD, JDU and Congress. But if you ask some politicians who were part of this alliance, they would concede in confidence that had it not been for the alliance, the RJD would have faced certain defeat. In an interesting parallel, the RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat had remarked against the continuance of the reservation policy. Hence, it is clearly indiscreet to place such credence on a non-political entity as Kishor.
It merits mention that Kishor had earlier served as a health executive in a United Nations (UN) mission in Africa. Primarily an expert in public health matters, Kishor had quit the UN in 2011. After a setback in Uttar Pradesh, it is expected that he would concentrate on matters in the realm of his expertise and leave evolving strategies to politicians. The recent developments have shown that if politicians conduct their matters in a straightforward and transparent manner, there is really no need for outside experts of the likes of Kishor. In the state of Bihar for instance, there is much work to be done in the fields of education and public health. Had Kishor invested his energies and expertise in these fields, he could perhaps have rendered yeoman service to both Bihar and the nation.
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