With Bihar Elections just months away, Prashant Kishor has attacked Nitish Kumar for his misgovernance and has expressed that he will be travelling across Bihar in 100 days. He has also announced Baat Bihar Ki campaign months ahead of the state elections. This campaign will be launched on March 20. He is actively asking young people who want to see Bihar change to join him in the campaign.
Prashant Kishor was also significantly instrumental in bringing victory to AAP in the Delhi Elections 2020. With AAP delivering a landslide win against the mighty BJP in the capital, Prashant Kishor (PK), the trending electoral strategist, has earned bragging rights as India’s electoral Chanakya, besting the other strong contender, BJP’s Amit Shah.
Who is Amit Shah and Prashant Kishor?
How many of you are aware of Amit Shah’s middle name. His full name is Amit Anilchandra Shah. He is the current Minister of Home Affairs who has been President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from 2014 to 2020.
Prashant Kishor is an Indian political strategist and politician who belonged to Janata Dal (United). He was expelled from the party on 29 January 2020 for criticising party head, Nitish Kumar’s, supportive stand on Citizenship Amendment Act (2019).
The two are brilliant in their craft, making contrasting case studies, yet remain equally astute in the art of electoral strategy and management. They differ in style, approach, command, and control, and yet, both have delivered a string of successes in different polls and under varying circumstances.
So, who wins the title as India’s political Chanakya?
Let’s compare the two.
Organiser vs Communicator
Both Amit Shah and Prashant Kishor burst on to the national scene during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. At the time, both were part of the same team, with the same mandate – to get Narendra Modi to lead the NDA to win. So, in some sense, both started in national politics at the same time.
Amit Shah holds the advantage of having been appointed the BJP party President and so knows his cadres very well, many of whom he has personally nurtured. Prashant Kishor is more of a strategist while Amit Shah is an organisation person.
Amit Shah is better at people management and has his ear to the ground. PK is excellent at reading the pulse of the people and touching the right emotional spots, which matter. The combination was deadly in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, but since then, Kishor moved on to other battles.
Prashant Kishor scores over Amit Shah in coming out with a poll communications strategy that connects with the common man. He demonstrated that quality with very successful initiatives like the very successful Chai pe Charcha programme, where PM Modi addresses the people directly speaking from his heart on simple issues which matter.
Since its launch, the programme has helped strengthen PM Modi’s appeal among voters across the country. It was PK’s brainchild which has now become the PM’s signature programme.
He also created the hugely successful Didi Ke Bolo initiative wherein people could call a helpline or connect through an email and directly reach out to the CM. The response and corresponding action proved the programme to be very popular among people. Same for Coffee with Captain, a talk created for Punjab CM Amarinder Singh. These are effective communication wins for PK.
On the other hand, Amit Shah is a master of booth-level strategy and management. His organisation skills amply demonstrated in almost all elections he ran for the party, irrespective of results.
Amit Shah stands out for organisation while PK stands out for communication.
Director vs Adviser
Amit Shah is a command and control person, whereas PK works through ideas and advice. Amit Shah is known for his clarity of plan and follows it up with close monitoring, often at the micro-level. He is also a dominating personality, getting his way most of the time.
PK is better at ideating with the team, and then leaving it to the team and party cadres to follow-up, monitoring at the macro-level. He remains comfortable maintaining a behind-the-scenes posture, discussing and creating campaigns, and advising his team to execute his plans.
One ship captain vs multiple ships
Win or lose, Amit Shah remains rooted in his party. PK, on the other hand, works with multiple clients in different state elections. Amit Shah has worked closely as Narendra Modi’s lieutenant in Gujarat, building and strengthening the party cadres in the state. The year 2014 saw him bring his organisational skills to the national scene.
His advantage is knowing and working with cadres across the country, and the cadres know his style and expectations. The stability of the relationship has worked well in building loyalty towards the leadership and party.
In PK’s case, he works on a contract shifting loyalties based on the potential to win in each state. His reading of the winning chances of the party helps him choose his clients.
Unlike Amit Shah, PK does not have a political base nor commands any loyalty. It leaves him vulnerable to demanding clients who may or may not follow his advice. The falling out between Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and PK over the former’s position on CAA and NRC is a case in point.
PK realised his lack of political base, wagering his best chances lay in joining Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) in Bihar. But, the recent bitterness between him and Nitish Kumar means he is now once again in the wilderness, with DMK’s MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu and TMC’s Mamata Banerjee his next test cases.
Party vs Contract
Working on a contract means PK’s value will remain as long as his victories. Two consecutive defeats will see him quickly cast aside and forgotten. Not the case with Amit Shah, who has emerged as an equally strong alternative to Narendra Modi in terms of capability, if not popularity. He remains a wily politician with a strong support base within the party. In comparison, PK remains a sharp strategist but without a party base.
Emperor Chandragupta Maurya’s Chanakya, demonstrated the best of realpolitik, matching it with strong organisational skills. Amit Shah has both those qualities.
In contrast, PK remains a better communicator with a keen eye on people’s political pulse but lacks the organisational capability of Amit Shah.
However, PK’s electoral results are impressive, AAP’s landslide victory in Delhi being the latest feather in his cap. For now, he wears the Chanakya crown, but for how long is anybody’s guess.