Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who has recently joined the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U), has addressed what is widely considered to be his one big blemish in an ocean of electoral success over the last few years -- the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
For the first time ever, the campaign wizard who has played a key part of election wins for numerous parties, including for the BJP and Narendra Modi in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, for the Nitish-Lalu 'Mahagathbandhan' in the 2015 Bihar elections, and for the Congress and Captain Amarinder Singh in the 2017 Punjab elections, has spoken about what exactly went wrong in India's most populous state that caused his Congress-SP combine to record an astonishing fall from grace.
The answer is manifold, Kishor revealed in a newsy episode of Nation Wants To Know with Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, and has a lot to do with decisions taken by the Congress high-command during the course of the campaign, including on the ill-fated alliance.
As Kishor puts it, he was already at work on the Congress' Punjab campaign, where he viewed not the ruling BJP-SAD combine but the AAP as the principal opponents, when in February 2016, three months after the Bihar election results, Rahul Gandhi approached him if it would be possible to work on Uttar Pradesh as well.
After taking on the assignment, Kishor says he spent many months in Uttar Pradesh devising and designing the campaign and came up with a plan that would entail, what he said, was a lot of risk-taking on the part of the Congress. The campaign was structured into 14 modules -- essentially mini-campaigns -- of which the Congress only implemented 2-3.
One of the campaigns that was implemented related to Sonia Gandhi but had to be brought to a close prematurely as the then Congress president fell ill, and the other was Rahul Gandhi's month-long Kisaan Yatra. Stunningly, a reason Prashant Kishor puts forth for the Congress not implementing the vast majority of his modules, is because they'd been formulated with a single-party campaign in mind. Hence, the "27 saal, UP behaal" slogan. Unfortunately, all those plans had to be set aside when, for reasons Kishor didn't get into, the September 2016 Surgical Strikes caused the Congress to consider not contesting the elections on its own.
It is at this point that Kishor believes he made a mistake, by choosing to not depart the campaign, despite only being in it half-heartedly and sans-conviction.
When prodded about what the other 12 campaign modules contained, however, he gave only hints, such as a proposed reach out to the Dalit community, and a proposal that Priyanka Gandhi-Vadra be projected as a face of the campaign. The latter proposal, as per Kishor, was discussed at the highest levels, but wasn't approved. He also dismissed that it was his proposal that Rahul Gandhi be projected as a UP CM face to lend him experience in governance before the general elections in 2019.
Kishor's revelations shed some light on what happened next -- i.e. the SP-Cong alliance ending up with just 54 seats in the 403-member assembly while the BJP cruised to a sensational 325, with Yogi Adityanath replacing Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister.