Express E-Adda: ‘In the next 20-30 years, Indian politics will revolve around the BJP – you are with it or against it’, says Prashant Kishor
By chaining an opposition
Many people have told me that I’m here to form a coalition or bring together people who can possibly challenge the existing political configuration. But in my head, I’m not driven by this idea of ”conquer someone or contain someone”. I do what feels right to me at the time.
I think like any other person, I would like to succeed. And success, as I define it in my head, is your ability to impact people’s lives. The more successful you are, the greater your ability to influence so many lives. It’s very easy to say that I’m here to change humanity. I mean no disrespect, but in a pageant, when people ask why you’re contesting, a lot of contestants say lofty things. Eventually, they want to find a place in modeling or in Bollywood. I don’t want to fall into that category. Success varies from person to person.
On whether the BJP will fall on its own
Not really. Because everyone who thinks that what goes up will come down, it may be true to say that in the medium and long term. There are two parts. The BJP, as a formidable electoral party, will remain in India for many decades. Once you get more than 30% of the votes at Indian level, no one can wish you to leave. It’s not something that will go away on its own. That said, that doesn’t mean they will continue to win every election. This means that for the first 40 to 50 years, politics in India revolved around Congress – either you were with Congress or you opposed it. In the next 20 to 30 years, I see Indian politics will revolve around the BJP – you are with the BJP, or you are against it. Those who think they’ll fall off on their own, that’s probably not the right assessment.
That’s not to say it can’t happen five years later or two years later. But it is quite possible that it will also take 20-30 years. This desperation that just because there is a BJP, there must be opposition and therefore opposition will emerge, is wishful thinking. With the right approach, this could perhaps emerge in two years. But if you don’t do the right things, you could find yourself in a situation where a political group or formation with pan-India influence and a mayor of electoral reach might not be around for many years.
On what caused the decline of Congress
The Congress in its present form which is the Indira Congress came out after 1967. They have been in decline as a political team since 1985. The last time they won India was in 1984. Many many people don’t pay attention to it. , that since 1984, Congress has not won India single-handedly. In the meantime, they ruled the country for about 15 years. Once as a minority government when Narasimha Rao was prime minister, and twice as a coalition government. We all accept that in 1989 Congress lost the election. But Congress as a party won 198 MPs, if I remember correctly. In 2004, we believe Congress won and UPA-I was formed. But the Congress is a party of 145 deputies. As a political party, the decline of Congress literally began from 1984-85.
No party gets more than 40% of the votes in India. This tells you that even on your good day, when you won India, there were more people opposed to you than people convinced by you. That is why, in India, one should never underestimate the Opposition. However, having an opposition does not necessarily mean that opposition parties are strong, and they are able to translate that voice of dissent or opposition into gain or electoral success.
The Congress, which is the main opposition party in this country, has been the ruling party for decades. Somehow they have to learn to be in opposition and behave like an opposition party. When Congress takes to the streets today and does something, it doesn’t get the similar media attention or traction (as it would when it was in government). Their natural reaction or response is, how can we do anything because the media doesn’t cover us, they completely hide us. This shows the state of mind, the DNA of a party in power, which has not yet agreed to be an opposition party. This is the fundamental problem. I see in the thought process how Congress is responding to this situation. And that suggests that we’ve been running the country for a very long time and we know that sooner or later people will get angry. And when they get mad or upset, if we’re there, they’ll vote for us.
On the importance of the face vs the story
A message that is part of the story, when conveyed by a credible messenger, makes sense. This is what I call “the four Ms” of winning elections. You need the right message to be delivered by a face or a messenger or a leader, whom you trust. And then you need the machinery, the party to convert that kind of support into votes. What you call ‘Coffee with Captain’ or hologram are the mechanics of the campaign. This is the way to reach out. This is the way to bring the leader to the masses in a much more interesting and engaging way. But if you don’t get three of the four Ms, you’re less likely to win.
If you put too many faces (on the poster), if you put too many messages, it gets cluttered. It’s just an idea for cleaning up. You’re probably giving me too much credit for that. It’s a simple thing to have your poster less cluttered, with the one message you want to convey, a face, which you want people to trust, and a symbol, which they should press the button on.
It’s basic common sense. I’m going to show you some posters that I have with me from the 1960s when Congress used to campaign. Just a symbol, a face of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and “Vote for Congress”. That’s it. This is not an invention of Prashant Kishor.
By becoming a politician
You call me a political activist. I ceased to be who I was when I announced last May – after the parliamentary elections in Bengal and Tamil Nadu – that I would no longer be doing this work in the form and manner in which I used to do it. previously.
I am going to Bihar as I announced, to consult, meet people and see what could be done to change the situation in Bihar. In the first 15 years of Lalu Prasad Yadav’s government, it can be said that something has been done on the samajik nyaya (social justice) front. Even he or his followers will argue that they may not have advanced economically, but they gave a voice to the oppressed.
Nitish Kumar will say that we brought economic development, built roads and got electricity. The fact is that although their claims are true to some extent, after these 30 years, Bihar is one of the poorest and most backward states. Bihar ranks low in all development metrics.
Yes, I agree with what Yadav and Kumar did. But in the next 10 to 15 years, if Bihar wants to rank among the developed states, it has to take a different path, which I call ‘nayi soch aur naya prayas’. The new thought or the new effort cannot be of Prashant Kishor, of one individual. So my role is to go there and meet people because I think there are enough people in Bihar who understand the state. They know what could be done to solve some of the complex problems. And above all, they intend to do something to change the current situation.
My job is to meet them, to impress them, to beg them to come together, to commit. I fall of them get together and they decide to form a political party, so be it. But this political party would not be the political party of Prashant Kishor. It will be the political party of all those who agree to be its co-founders. Me included.
I’m the catalyst trying to bring everyone together who thinks it can be done and should be done. I don’t know if I’ll be the boss or somebody else will be the boss; let the process unfold. My hope and belief is that I will be democratic and transparent enough in the process of forming this party, proving many critics wrong, that it is doable, and we can do it right in a democratic way.
Some 18,000 people from different fields – teachers, former bureaucrats, doctors, farmers and social workers – have expressed interest, otherwise we would have contacted them to ask if they would like to join such a mission. Now, the challenge for me or the task for me is, in the next few months, to go meet with them individually or in groups and see how many of them are ready to be part of it as co-founders. I cannot give you the number of people who will meet unless I undertake this exercise. You won’t see me alone.
AAP or Flipkart, the most successful Indian startup?
AAP or Congress, the biggest threat to the BJP?
Every day, Congress.
The biggest asset of the BJP today?
And their biggest weakness?
Too much dependence on Narendra Modi.
Politics or politics, what does Prashant Kishor love more?
Policy. Politics is the means.
Congress’s greatest strength?
Their biggest weak point?
Welfarism or identity, what is the strongest electoral weapon?
In 2024, which party is best placed to lead India?
Let the people decide.
A political strategist, living or dead, anywhere in the world, who inspired you?
I don’t know any of them. I haven’t read or heard of this whole idea of a political strategist. In India, we had nobody. Even outside India, I don’t know anyone.
A politician in India, living or dead, that you most admire?
Because he probably created this party which has become a pan-Indian party, which we see in the BJP.