Prashant Kishor, the political branding and communications consultant credited with crafting several highly successful election campaigns, said he will leave his profession if the BJP manages to win 100 seats (29.4%) in the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections.
“I will quit the work I’m doing.. I will cease to exist as a political aide, what I’ve been doing in the last 4-5 years.. You will never meet me as aiding anyone in this role,” he said in an interview with India Today television channel aired today.
The Bihar native, who shot to prominence by helping then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s lead a innovative and successful nationwide campaign to become India’s 14th Prime Minister in 2014, has subsequently helped others like the anti-BJP Grand Alliance in Bihar and the Congress Party in Punjab in the subsequent year.
He also helped craft the successful communication and branding strategies of YS Jaganmohan Reddy in 2019 and that of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi’s assembly elections last year.
He’s currently helping out the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu, both against NDA.
Kishor said he was 100% confident that the TMC will win West Bengal and that the BJP will be disappointed in its quest to win West Bengal “at any cost”.
Unlike the 2017 assembly elections of Uttar Pradesh, when he tried to help the more or less defunct Congress Party, this time, he said, he has got enough time to fully put into practice all this ideas in West Bengal.
“UP, I lost, and it’s my stated position, though I don’t say this publicly, that the day I lose an election, I should quit this space, when I started. In my head, we didn’t get to do what we wanted to do, in UP…But in Bengal, I have no excuse. I got into this knowing fully well what are the strengths and weaknesses of Trinamool, knowing fully well that I’m up against BJP and their desire to win Bengal at any costs, knowing fully well that there will be anti-incumbency, there will be desertions.
“And I’ve had a year and a half. And Didi has given me as much freedom as I would have liked to help, contribute, suggest whatever I wanted. Even after doing all these things, if the BJP is able to defeat [us], I must be humble enough to accept that I’m not good enough and quit,” he said.
He said he will quit if he loses as he was not interested in doing anything where he’s the second best, and there are many other things in which he’s interested.
“I’ve not given my word to my father that this is what I will do in life. There is no desire or necessity for me to remain in this [political consulting] space. I can do something else. I can go and live like a normal guy.”
Kishor is part of a political activist group known as I-PAC, formed after Narendra Modi’s 2014 win on the lines of the political action committees of the United States.
He said he doesn’t own I-PAC, and neither he, nor I-PAC is ‘in it’ for the money.
“It is not a business. It is a platform for young people to come, experience and be a part of the political set up if they so choose. We think that we are able to create a space for ourselves where we influence policy, we influence the political ecosystem and the way governments work and function in the space and the area where we work.
“That might sound too lofty for you. Oh, he must be doing this for the money. If not for the money, perhaps we wants a ticket to the Rajya Sabha. If not Rajya Sabha, he must be after some post. That’s not it. We are far more ambitious than that,” he said.
However, Kishor refused to discuss what his long-term goal was.
“That we will keep for some other time. But I can tell you something, I am far more ambitious than trying to make some extra bucks, to be doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Asked if his ambition was to be a national leader, and perhaps be the prime minister one day, he said: “I’m a very small person. I don’t even have a political party. I’m not a political activist. That is very far fetched. I want to learn and enjoy what I’m doing. Till the time I’m doing [it], I must be one of the best, if not the best best.”
On whether he considered himself the best, he said: “Bengal will settle who is better.”
Kishor also said he did not take what happens on social media to heart, including attacks from the BJP’s IT cell. He pointed out that he was involved with putting in place BJP’s social media infrastructure in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.
“My life is not determined by the trolls. Many of them have been brought into this space by me, so I know what they can do…
“It’s not that I don’t know what trolls, memes and “social media warriors” can do to me — I’m not bothered about it.” he said.
He also said that the nature of the campaign on social media has changed between 2013-14 and now.
Now, he said, the use of digital media has become “perverted” and “distorted”.
Kishor also dismissed speculations that TMC chief Mamata Banerjee was difficult to work with and it has been “an absolute delight” to work with her.
“When the announcement was made that I will be working with her, many people said, he might be smart, but she doesn’t listen to anyone. Now, the same people say that she will lose because she listens only to Prashant Kishor!”
Asked about reports that she was too eccentric and mercurial as a personality, he said a certain degree of eccentricity goes with the territory.
“All people who are at this level, there is a degree of “craziness”. You have to crazy to be at the level that they are. It is always difficult to deal with them, and to have your way.. but I think it has been absolutely a pleasure working with her: I haven’t had a single opportunity where I’ve had to struggle where I’d have asked her or the party to do something and she’d have said no,” he added.