Is poll strategist Prashant Kishor back on Team Modi?

In the past six years, his path has taken diverse turns. From a Modi strategist in the BJP’s Gujarat 2012 campaign, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to working closely with the party’s rivals in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, Prashant Kishor has traversed India’s political terrain quite a bit in less than a decade.

But the star planner now seems to be making a “ghar wapsi” before the big battle due next year. Well-placed sources in the BJP say Kishor appears to be right back where he started from six years ago.

According to sources familiar with the matter, the former UN health specialist, who rose as a trusted strategist of Narendra Modi in 2014, could be advising the prime minister again for his 2019 campaign.

Over the past few months, Kishor has held multiple meetings with the PM, some of which lasted longer than their scheduled duration, as part of forward planning for next year’s general elections, party insiders say.

His brief to the BJP: resurrect the youth support, according to the sources. Kishor believes the Modi campaign needs to rev up for a stronger connect with young voters as it did ahead of the 2014 vote, according to the sources.

The poll strategist also seems to have buried the hatchet with BJP chief Amit Shah. Kishor, according to the sources, has held a series of meetings with the BJP president at his home. “If the two had refused to work together forever, they wouldn’t have been having lunch and dinner together on multiple occasions. If the prime minister advises, everyone will have to work unitedly. No one can defy the PM’s advise,” an insider said.

Post-2014, Kishor had a bitter falling out with Shah after he sought a plump post in the party, which was refused.

This time, Kishor has been explained that his relationship with the BJP would be transactional till the 2019 elections, according to the party sources.

Kishor’s new outfit, I-PAC, has in the meantime started recruiting youth. Its #NationalAgendaForum is attached to every tweet that says: “The power to vote fuels the engine of democracy. Vote now and set your agenda for 2019”.

One of the I-PAC themes centers around the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in 1869. On Twitter, the National Agenda Forum hashtag users could be seen evoking the Mahatma to woo the youth.

Before returning to the BJP, Kishor forayed into South India last year to help YSR Congress chief Jaganmohan Reddy in his efforts to wrest power in Andhra Pradesh. Reddy also roped him in for Lok Sabha elections.

In the neck-and-neck fight back in the 2014 assembly polls, the TDP came to power in Andhra Pradesh on a razor-thin margin. The TDP secured only 2.06 per cent more votes than the YSRCP in the Seemandhra region that gave it a decisive edge over Reddy’s party. This year, the BJP lost the TDP in Andhra when the central government refused a special status to the state.

In the past, Kishor has worked with the JDU in Bihar and the Congress in Punjab.

But an attempt to pull off a Congress victory in Uttar Pradesh failed miserably. Sources close to him blame the Congress debacle in UP to the party’s own leadership “crisis” in the state.

“Had the Congress agreed to Priyanka Gandhi as chief minister in UP, the Muslims would have migrated en masse to the Congress and they could have won the election,” said a Kishor aide.

Updated: July 13, 2018 — 6:09 pm