So far, Prashant Kishor has only wins to his credit but it is a cruel world out there - one loss and the reputations come crumbling down. According to some poll pundits, BJP’s massive win in the general elections cannot be attributed solely to ‘PK’ as it was expected to do well anyways (anti-incumbency being one of the major contributing factors - UPA being at helm for a decade) and in Bihar again, it isn’t that Lalu-Nitish combine won because of PK alone, the saffron party shot itself in the foot too many times. Punjab and UP, the two states for which he has the mandate from Congress would be his litmus test as a poll strategist. Here are some reasons why we believe that he is likely to fail in UP:
(1) PK does not have his key aides Rajat Sethi (IIT Kharagpur & Harvard alumni who was a part of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team during his days in the US), Shubhrastha and six other colleagues – all from reputed international colleges - with him anymore. They had worked with him in Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG) that led to Modi’s legendary victory. Ram Madhav was instrumental in their ghar wapsi and they have proven their worth with party’s massive win in Assam recently. With his ‘tried and tested’ band of data crunchers not by his side, what would his strategy and the subsequent execution based on? Successful poll strategies have to have the required data mining / analytics, they are hollow without this essential ‘ingredient’.
(2) A quick look at the US Presidential elections will tell you that strategists cannot be mercenaries who work with anyone who pays them. All strategists, data crunchers and technology startups around the campaign business are divided in camps – Republican and Democrat. They get branded as Republican strategist or a Democrat strategist for life.Political campaigns have matured and become a science in US and we are witnessing the same happening in India as well. Prashant Kishor’s switch from BJP to JDU to Congress does not augur well for his future as a political strategist. Besides, why did Congress not hire his services for Assam, was the party management convinced of the imminent loss, and if that’s the case, isn’t an imminent loss staring at them in UP too?
(3) Parties need to have a proposed CM face. BJP paid a heavy price for it, literally through its nose, for not having one in Delhi and Bihar. In Assam, BJP announced Sonowal as its proposed CM face days ahead of the polls and results are there for everyone to see. Why is PK, as an expert poll strategist, not insisting on having a proposed CM face for Congress in Punjab and UP?Congress has not declared Capt. Amrinder Singh as their proposed CM face for Punjab as yet, but let’s focus on PK’s UP strategy for now.One of the first strategy point of his was to make Rahul Gandhi as the proposed CM face. Rahul, as expected, declined. Has PK not read the Congress history? Post 1964, no Gandhi has worked even as a cabinet minister, and to suggest someone whom the grand old party sees as the future PM was one of his major faux pas. The next possible ‘disruption’, as he too believes that only disruption can bring Congress back to life in the state, that PK suggested was Priyanka Gandhi. He is yet to receive an answer from the party and anyone with some sense of how Congress works will tell you that he is unlikely to get an answer.
Dismayed by no response, he has now suggested to make Priyanka as the star campaigner across the state and not just in the Amethi & RaeBareli that she is known to visit every five years for campaigning.Even if the Congress agrees for this at his request, which seems unlikely again, does he not know that Priyanka carries with herself the Vadra ‘baggage’ – a name that BJP is leaving no stone unturned to synonymize with corruption. Besides, what has Congress done for the people of Amethi and Rae Bareli…is this what the party proposes to do for the entire state as well?Congress has lost grip on the ground but has a sense of the ground realities. The party knows that UP is a lost cause and putting Rahul or Priyanka as lead face would completely finish the residual political brand value in the face of an imminent defeat.
(4) If PK believes that dynasty is something that UP voters would fall in for, he is got it all wrong. Results of the Assam, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal suggest that voters are no longer are in any dynasty awe. In US, Jeb Bush of the Bush dynasty was defeated in the primaries itself and Hillary Clinton of the Clinton dynasty is facing competition from Sanders, the oldie in the fray still. Is dynasty his only trump card and what if gets a no again from Congress when it comes to Priyanka campaigning across UP?
(5) Does PK have his caste equations right? This is something that’s very important as far as polls in UP are concerned. Nehru was a Brahmin and therefore is he trying project a Brahmin descendant, Rahul or Priyanka, as the proposed CM face in UP while attempting to fix a Muslim-Dalit alliance for the party in the state?
(Author has been a senior technology journalist with leading IT magazines and a PR practitioner for about two decades. He runs a digital campaign consultancy for political parties and candidates.)