Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the most popular leader in the country, JD(U) leader Prashant Kishor said Friday, emphasising he does not see any reason for alarm in the BJP after the BJP suffered setbacks in three Hindi heartland states.
Mr Kishor, who played an important role in shaping the BJP campaign during 2014 polls, said he believes the BJP won that election without resorting to the Ram temple issue and should stick to the development agenda to win the general election next year.
"I do not think there is any cause for alarm for BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the most popular leader in the country," he told reporters during an informal chat in Patna. The JD(U) is an ally of the BJP in Bihar.
Mr Kishor's comments come three days after the BJP was defeated in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The assembly elections were billed as "semifinals" to the 2019 Lok Sabha election by political observers, who speculate the BJP might rake up the Ram temple issue ahead of the general election as election results have thrown open the race for 2019.
In the run-up to the assembly elections, right-wing organisations held rallies and programmes to demand that Ram temple be built in Ayodhya. The BJP has said that the construction of Ram temple is not a political issue for it but a matter of faith.
"The BJP today may not appear as formidable as it was in 2014 but it remains much stronger than it was in 2004 - when it lost power, and in 2009 - when it failed to wrest power (from the Congress)," Mr Kishor said about the NDA ally.
He joined the JD(U) in September and was made vice-president of party headed by Bihar Chief Minister by Nitish Kumar within a month. As a poll strategist, he had advised Mr Kumar during the 2015 assembly election in the state.
Asked about the comment by Chirag Paswan, whose LJP is also a constituent of the NDA in Bihar, that people felt "disappointment" by the BJP for using the Hindutva card in the assembly polls to five states, he said he feels the saffron party can do well without raking up such issues.
"I was a part of Narendra Modi's poll campaign team in 2014. Issues like Ram temple were not on the agenda and the BJP put up its best ever performance on development plank. I do not see why it cannot do well without raking up such issues," he said.
However when he was asked whether he would like to suggest any course correction to the BJP, the young leader said, "The BJP is a big party. It has to decide for itself... We do agree on some points which is why we are in alliance. But we do have our differences as well which is why we are separate parties".
Asked whether he thought the Supreme Court dismissing petitions on Rafale deal controversy had come as a relief to the BJP, he said, "I am not aware of the judgement so far. So, it would not be appropriate for me to say anything".
Mr Kishor also disclosed that the JD(U) has undertaken a drive to provide a platform to young men and women with talent and ambition for politics.
"We plan to induct one lakh youths in the next two years who do not come from political families but have the capability to become good MPs and MLAs. Nitish Kumar is of the view that the average age of the party's legislators should be brought down to 45 years," the 41-year-old said.
The new party members will have to prove themselves in elections at all levels - panchayats and local bodies, said Mr Kishor, whose aggressive strategies have been credited for the decent performance of JD(U)'s student wing in the Patna University Students' Union polls recently.
Asked about RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav's strong criticism of Chief Minister Kumar, Mr Kishor said, "Dignity and decorum should be maintained in public discourse since our choice of words denotes our values".
Mr Kishor has excellent relations with Mr Yadav's father Lalu Prasad since the Grand Alliance days.