In a rare rendezvous, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s focal point for strategic affairs Prashant Kishor met a group of journalists on 8 September in New Delhi. The meeting at the residence of Rajya Sabha member and Janata Dal (United) spokesman KC Tyagi was officially an ‘off-the-record interaction’. But, it somehow veered around Kishor’s real political inclinations. This turned out to be more so because of the role Kishor had played for Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 2014 General Election last year which catapulted Modi to the top post of the country.
The ace publicist defended his last year’s wide-spectrum campaign for Modi, arguing that there was nothing wrong in it. Everything was overboard, he said, as it translated into a resounding verdict in favour of Modi. Kishor said in any case this ought to be respected. And, yet, in the same breath he exuded confidence that given his backing, assistance, inputs, aid and advice Nitish Kumar, too, would easily romp home.
Yet, the king-maker, as Kishor is often being referred to these days, left those present quite befuddled. His talk was marked by great gusto. For many, he is a true mercenary, ready to offer his staunch social and digital media advocacy to whosoever opts to be his client. First it was Modi, now it is Nitish and in times or polls to come it can well be anybody else. But sceptics among the little gathering of scribes present at Tyagi’s residence remained unmoved by Kishor’s assertions. They prefer to believe that he first looked for some role in Modi’s government and since this did not come, the UN official-turned-social-entrepreneur turned to Nitish. They feel that Kishor may well find some work in Bihar if Nitish Kumar wins another spell of power for himself.
Some say that Kishor’s entry in Bihar politics as Nitish’s war-room chief has not been liked by some of his party colleagues as they do not like his calling the shots all the time besides keeping a tab over them. And at another level, his way of projecting Nitish alone as sole savior of Bihar is leaving other constituents of the coalition in the cold. They argue Nitish is the lone poster boy adorned by Kishor while Lalu is nowhere to be seen in the new campaign strategy charted out by him, adding that this is a strange gate-keeping where the strength of the larger coalition, that includes Congress as well, has not been able to get into play.
Kishor’s critics call him a non-party actor who may well end up causing ripples in Bihar politics without possibly making a distinctive impact. Yet, what provides cover to him is the fact that nowadays, politics has virtually been trapped on the screen of mobile handsets. And those behind it can well have claims to make the difference vis-à-vis the fate of the state and its people. Social media and Whatsapp bring a round-the-clock barrage of politically loaded stuff. Invariably, they are sharp, cryptic and pointed and are fired in an easy-to-gulp way. This is more so in times of election in the hope that this can sway the choices and affect the outcome.
In Kishor’s case this may or may not be so but as of now his war-room boys have pushed the erstwhile backroom boys of Bihar politics to the insignificant rungs of politics. And, thus he has kick-started a battle of sorts within the ranks of JD (U) and the coalition formed by it well before the actual war begins.