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UP election results 2017: Has Congress’s rout made Prashant Kishor irrelevant?

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-03-2017 Amrit Raj

New Delhi: Until Friday night, Prashant Kishor, the boy wonder of Indian politics, was sending messages to his close friends stating that the Samajwadi Pradesh-Congress alliance would not get less than 190 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would end up with less than 150 seats and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) below 70.

He was also talking about how he would end up with a spotless track record of 3-0 in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, given what he had managed to achieve during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with Narendra Modi and later with the grand alliance of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.

Come Saturday morning though, Kishor has not been responding to messages even as the verdict in Uttar Pradesh gets clearer. He did not respond to calls made by Mint seeking a response either.

Track Assembly Election Results 2017 here

It may not be the end of the road for poll strategist Prashant Kishor, but the verdict in UP does cast a shadow on his future and his efforts at strategizing for a Congress win.

Punjab, where the Congress has come out with flying colours and where Kishor played the role of a strategist, has been a saving grace. But many agree that the Punjab win for Congress is more to do with Captain Amarinder Singh than with Kishor or the Congress party itself.

A native of Bihar, Kishor was earlier working as a health expert for a programme of the United Nations in Africa, until he returned to India and joined the election campaign of Modi. He is credited with organizing the popular “Chai Pe Charcha” campaign for Modi.

Beginning with the announcement of former Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit as the chief ministerial candidate of UP and later joining hands with the SP, Kishor’s appointment itself caused troubles within the Congress with most local leaders complaining of being left out of the strategizing part.

While he may not have been the sole strategist in Uttar Pradesh, insiders said, he had a huge role in shaping the game plan.

But the fact that he worked for 18 months for the Congress party was instrumental in forming the alliance with SP. Yet the fact that the Congress was leading in only 12 seats (which is 16 seats less than what the party won during previous election) at 11.50am, suggests that Kishor got his math wrong, for once.

Congress, egged on by Kishor, was betting electorally in UP against heavy odds. It won only two of 80 Lok Sabha seats in the 16th general election, and has been out of power in UP for 27 years. The last time it secured a double-digit vote share in UP was in the 1993 assembly election.

Kishor’s plan centred around the Gandhis, along with a development narrative around former Delhi CM Dikshit. Besides, he fashioned a high decibel and populist farmer-centric campaign, getting Rahul Gandhi to anchor a nearly month-long kisan yatra.

Kishor, 38, has age on his side and elections in UP have tested many a stalwart. He will only get better.

Anuja in New Delhi contributed to this report

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