In an unexpected turn-of-events in the lead up to the elections, poll campaign strategist and recently inducted senior JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor travelled to Mumbai on Tuesday to meet with Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray at the latter's Matoshri residence.
Republic TV and Republic Bharat have learnt that Kishor, who is credited with having played an instrumental role in some of Narendra Modi's most effective campaign strategms for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, has agreed to help the Shiv Sena in its campaign in the lead-up to the Lok Sabha elections - specifically in chalking out a strategy and designing the campaign.
As per sources, Kishor was present at the Shiv Sena meeting which the party's senior leaders and MPs also attended. At the meeting, Uddhav thackeray introduced Kishor to all his MPs and other leaders.
At the time of writing, the fundamental question mark over the Shiv Sena's upcoming campaign remains unanswered - whether or not the party will contest in an alliance with the BJP with which it is in power at the Centre, in Maharashtra and also in the BMC. While the JD(U) is also an alliance partner in the NDA, as per inputs, the discussions with Kishor weren't intended at resolving this particular impasse. In fact, as per sources, if the alliance does work out, Kishor will work only on those seats that the Shiv Sena contests, whereas if it doesn't and the Sena contests by itself, he will work on all 48 seats in the state. Soon, the Shiv Sena will again arrange a meeting of Kishor with its leaders and senior functionaries whereby he will give lectures to them about new and digital methods of campaigning.
The Shiv Sena and BJP's relationship has been tenuous (at best) over these last few months, with the Mumbai-based party taking every opportunity to attack its long-standing partner, over a range of political issues from the Ram Mandir to Rafale, and even chiming in with the Opposition on a few occasions. The BJP has thus far refrained from hitting back at the Shiv Sena despite provocation, only indicating that negotiations over the alliance and seat-sharing are still ongoing. Meanwhile, the prospective coalition's principle rival - the Congress-NCP alliance has moved ahead with its seat-sharing talks.
Prashant Kishor joined the JD(U) in October, being appointed as a National Vice President of the Nitish Kumar-led party, with the Bihar CM proclaiming him to be the 'future'. Kishor had earlier worked successfully with Nitish Kumar to defeat the BJP in the thrilling 2015 Bihar elections. His successful run of wins came to a grinding halt, however, as he teamed up with the Congress for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, but following the Rahul Gandhi-led party teaming up with Akhilesh Yadav's SP, they were soundly defeated by a rampant BJP.