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Prashant Kishor will mar his winning record in UP

May 03, 2016 20:15 IST

Prashant Kishor, the brain behind Narendra Modi's triumph in 2014 and Nitish Kumar's win in 2015, has been signed up by the Congress to ensure victory in next year's UP assembly election.
Amulya Ganguli believes the UP results will not bode well for the political wizard.

Prashant Kishor's successful run as a whiz kid of the election scene may be coming to an end.

While his ability to ensure Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar cross the finishing line with aplomb in 2014 and 2015 may have endowed him with an aura of invincibility hindsight suggests that those successes were waiting to happen.

In the first case, Modi was the sole player in an empty field in 2014 since -- as is now apparent -- his main opponent, the scam-tainted and policy paralysed Congress had given up the ghost even before the ballots were counted.

However, by the time Prashant Kishor crossed the field to join the Nitish Kumar camp, Modi had already started losing his sheen, so much so that the Bihar chief minister had little difficulty in getting the better of the prime minister.

By attributing these two successes to Prashant Kishor and choosing him as its friend, philosopher and guide for next year's UP elections, the Congress has only revealed its dearth of political instincts.

Mesmerised by his own achievements, the electoral 'genius' too has taken on what may well prove to be a veritable 'mission impossible.'

For no matter how carefully charts and graphs are prepared and caste calculations are tallied it will be extremely difficult to sell a tired, jaded, outfit led by an unintelligent feudal family to the voters.

The Congress' best performance in recent years in UP was in 2009 when it won 20 of the 80 parliamentary seats.

The party gained in that year from what can be called the Manmohan Singh wave since, as the Modi government's chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian recently pointed out the country saw the fastest-ever decline in the rate of poverty between 2005-2006 and 2011-2012.

The Congress jump from 145 seats in 2004 to 206 in 2009 was the result of the buoyant economic scene. Little wonder then that the effect was felt in UP as it did all over the country.

Now the scene is different.

There is no evidence that the economic decline which began towards the end of Manmohan Singh's tenure, thanks to Sonia Gandhi's profligate populist initiatives, which hampered the growth rate, has been effectively reversed.

The Congress is still seen as anti-growth, stalling the Goods and Services Tax Bill and amendments to the land law.

Moreover, while Sonia is apparently not in the best of health, Rahul Gandhi has clearly not lived up even to the expectations of the sycophants in the party.

That is why his anointment as party president has been repeatedly put off.

He has also given no inkling of where he stands in matters relating to the economy or foreign policy.

Evidently, he is still a dilettante, clueless about the affairs of the nation and the world.

As a follower of his mother's and grandmother Indira Gandhi's faux socialism, Rahul is seen as anti-industry, against those who wear suits and boots.

Hence, the Congress' renewed susceptibility to introducing quotas in the private sector, which will spell doom for the economic scene.

For Prashant Kishor to turn around this lumbering juggernaut which wants to take the country back to the pre-1991 period will be a miracle if only because large sections of the middle class still have faith in Modi's pro-development policies.

There is little doubt that if Modi can rein in the Hindutva brigade, the Bharatiya Janata Party will forge ahead with greater speed.

In UP, the scene will be complicated by the entry of Nitish Kumar's new band of warriors, comprising his own Janata Dal-United, Laloo Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Ajit Singh's Rashtriya Lok Dal and Babulal Marandi's Jharkhand Vikas Morcha.

The Congress too is expected to be a part of this khichdi (hotchpotch) as the 131-year-old party clamours to retain its relevance.

For Prashant Kishor, enabling the Congress somehow to stay afloat in the turbulent political waters cannot be a success story.

All that he can hope for is that the confusion created by the presence of so many parties -- the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the BJP and Nitish Kumar's group -- will hide his failures vis-a-vis the Congress.

For the latter, it is the last throw of the dice.

The Congress' hopes and prayers will be that the anti-incumbency factors affecting Modi on one hand and the Samajwadi Party on the other will enable it to win a few seats.

It is clear, however, that Prashant Kishor will be nowhere near repeating his earlier massive wins.

Nonetheless, he deserves at least two cheers for having the guts to take on such a challenging task.

Amulya Ganguli is a Delhi-based political commentator.

Amulya Ganguli in New Delhi