Prime Minister Modi’s greatest weakness is “lack of benevolence” says Prashant Kishor, the electoral strategist widely credited for devising and executing the electoral campaign that got Mr Modi elected Prime Minister in 2014. Asked what he means by “benevolent”, Mr Kishor said “caring and forgiving.”
In the second part of his 2 part interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Mr Kishor said Mr Modi’s greatest strength is his incredible experience. Mr Kishor pointed out that Mr Modi had spent 10-12 years as an RSS pracharak, another decade as a senior official in the BJP culminating as a party general secretary, 12 years as a Chief Minister and, now, 6 years as Prime Minister. This, Mr Kishor said, was the explanation for Mr Modi’s unique ability to know or sense what the people of India feel or think. “It’s the outcome of his incredible experience,” he said.
In the second interview, which is nearly 40 mts long, Prashant Kishor told the Wire he first began working with Mr Modi in 2012 as a public health consultant. During that time Mr Modi recognised Mr Kishor’s political talent and started to use it. Thus began the second stage of their relationship when Mr Kishor became a political consultant to Mr Modi. In turn that established Mr Kishor as India’s foremost political strategist. Since 2014, he has played a critical role in the election or re-election as chief minister of Nitish Kumar, Amarinder Singh, Arvind Kejriwal and Jagan Mohan Reddy.
Asked by The Wire if this meant Mr Modi both spotted and nurtured his political talent, Mr Kishor said he was aware of its existence from his university days but the opportunity to use it came through Mr Modi and then “one thing led to another”.
However Mr Kishor made clear there was no question of him ever working again with Mr Modi. “We have gone our separate ways.”
Speaking about the Congress campaign for the UP elections of 2017, which he masterminded and which is widely regarded as his only failure, Mr Kishor said the problem was Congress kept changing the target and as a result he had to keep changing the strategy. He said long before voting day he had realized that things were not going right and wanted to opt out but each time was persuaded to continue. Mr Kishor said he had learnt a lot from this experience but when asked if that meant how not to run an election he merely laughed.
In the interview to The Wire, Mr Kishor speaks about the role he plays when he takes on a campaign. He says he gets involved in all its facets including ensuring its proper execution. He works very closely with the chief ministerial or prime ministerial candidate and there is great trust and free expression between them.
Mr Kishor said he had refused to work with individuals or political parties far more times than he has agreed to take on their campaigns. Responding to the charge he is a ‘political mercenary’, Mr Kishor said in each of the campaigns he has managed the key or core element was an issue he agreed with and identified with. Asked how he explained the fact he had worked with Shiv Sena last year and is now working with Trinmool, two parties that are polar opposites, Mr Kishor said his association with Shiv Sena was small if not minimal.
Finally, speaking about his own future over the next two decades, Mr Kishor, who is 43, said he did not see himself as an MP of either house of parliament over the next ten years. His priority was to work at the grass roots. This was why he has launched the Baat Bihar Ki platform in February. He completely ruled out converting it into a political party to contest the Bihar elections which, if held on time, are six months away.
However Mr Kishor revealed he would be willing to become an MLA during the next 10 years because this is part of working at the grass roots.
This is a paraphrased precis of Prashant Kishor’s second interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire.
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