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Prashant Kishor: The man with a strategy and a motive — to win elections

Born in 1977, Kishor is a public health expert by qualification. He worked for the United Nations for eight years

June 11, 2019 / 01:14 PM IST
Prashant Kishor (left) with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

Prashant Kishor (left) with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

A name less popular in outer political lobbies, Prashant Kishor is a back-room strategist, known best for his success during elections.

Recently, he came to light after reports of him meeting Trinamool Congress satrap Mamata Banerjee surfaced. Speculations are that Banerjee is going to hire his services, after her party received a setback in the Lok Sabha polls, with the BJP getting 18 seats in West Bengal, only four less than the TMC.

Kishor is currently the national vice-president of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in Bihar and if the grapevine is to be believed, his days in the party are numbered.

The 42-year-old had joined the JD(U) in September 2018, expecting an onset into a political career. However, with rumblings of ego battles within the party after Kishor was being seen as Number 2 after Nitish Kumar, his aspiration seemed elusive.

Born in 1977, Kishor is a public health expert by qualification. He worked for the United Nations for eight years. The first ever election strategy that he devised was for Narendra Modi, when he was contesting for chief minister of Gujarat for the third consecutive term in the 2012 Assembly elections. And, that was his first victory as a strategist.


The next campaign for Kishor was a big one – the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Ahead of the polls, Kishor founded the Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG). He formed a team of 200 young, Indian professionals from top schools and companies who contributed to the phenomenon of the 'Modi wave'.

These youngsters quit their comfortable banking and consultancy jobs and worked diligently with Kishor to devise the campaign for BJP. The ‘chai pe charcha’ campaign, 3D rallies, conclaves and social media programmes were all the work of Kishor’s team. The result – a resounding victory!

However, his stint with the BJP did not last long as questions were raised on the CAG’s contribution to the victory by the saffron party’s top brass as well as the RSS. As a result, Kishor broke away from the BJP in 2015 and reformulated the CAG as Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC).

IPAC’s first project was devising the campaign for Nitish Kumar, a stern adversary (at that time) of Kishor’s former boss. It was then when he shed his jeans-and-T-shirt attire, donned on a white kurta pajama and headed to Bihar – believe it or not, this eye for detail helped build a camaraderie with party workers and volunteers. Kishor’s father, who was a doctor with the state government, hails from Buxar in Bihar, while his mother is from Balia in Uttar Pradesh.

As the advisor and consultant to Nitish Kumar, who was at his political low in 2015, Kishor brought in a team of strategists, number crunchers, communication experts, media planners, appropriate technology, et al.

An unprecedented experiment that forms the highlight of Nitish’s campaign ahead of Bihar Assembly polls in 2015 was the deployment of women to canvass door-to-door for Kumar. This was somewhere that the PM could not have gone. The result was that a resurgent JD(U) won 71 seats, surprising the BJP, who didn’t expect Kishor’s strategy to work. It is also believed that the idea of an alliance with the RJ(D) was also Kishor’s.

Influenced by Barack Obama's use of social media and communication strategies in his Presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012, Kishor believes that as a consultant, his job is to manage election campaigns professionally in an 'ideologically agnostic’ manner. And these ideologically neutral services come at a price.

Which explains his services to the Congress in the 2016 Punjab Assembly Polls. The Grand Old Party’s victory in the state is largely due to the work done by Kishor.

Kishor is also known to have lent his services to Jaganmohan Reddy, whose YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) swept Andhra Pradesh in the recently concluded Assembly polls.
Aakriti Handa

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