Elections in Bengal just two months away, poll strategist Prashant Kishor's team is playing a key role for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, helping it tackle the BJP challenge. Amid speculation that it also has a say in candidate selection, the Indian Political Action Committee or IPAC says it is acting as a force multiplier for the ruling party, helping it identify chinks in its armour, plugging gaps in its strategy and draw in votes that had moved away.
The third item on the list is important, with the BJP rapidly expanding its footprint in tribal areas of the state. A portion of Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and Adivasi votes in the western and northern parts of the state had shifted to the BJP in 2019, giving it a chunk of the 18 parliamentary seats it won in the state.
The IPAC's role is to ensure that Trinamool's message for these segments get amplified. Much of this is done through outreach programmes, where mid-level and district leaders can interact with the Chief Minister.
At one such programme organised by IPAC to reach out to the party's tribal and Scheduled Castes leaders, Mamata Banerjee had said: "I am appealing to my brothers from the SC/ST and Adivasi community. They (the BJP) have won a lot of your seats. They have won in Junglemahal and North Bengal. They have won so many MPs. Have they given you anything?"
The event set the tone for the messaging the Trinamool wanted to send out.
Mamata Banerjee's flagship scheme "Duarey Sarkar" has distributed over 10 lakh caste certificates for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes within a month. This initiative has to reach the ground and the IPAC comes into the picture here, Trinamool leaders say.
The IPAC is closely working with the party's SC/ST cell leaders to bring back the Scheduled Caste votes the BJP has been eyeing.
President of Trinamool's cell for the Scheduled Castes, Dr Tapas Mandal, said: "When a political representative goes to the people, he may not get the entire truth. But when an independent agency goes to the people, we will get unbiased information."
The IPAC is also helping the party stand against the BJP's bombardment of advertisements and videos on social media and WhatsApp. From providing feedback from the ground to regular updates on concerns of voters, it is also keeping the party's top leadership updated. Party leaders say Mamata Banerjee is also aware the BJP troll army's relentless attack on her is helping it polarize the state.
IPAC teams are also educating district-level leaders about the pitfalls of social media blunders. Booth-level workers are being advised to attend training sessions on weekends to familiarize themselves with the party's social media strategy.
The IPAC is also helping Trinamool run a directed campaign.
For example, in one block of Kalyani, where the Trinamool has to recover ground, a key trouble area was pending land deeds for residents. That feedback was shared with the party and the local leadership has managed to sort out the issue.
Now the message that the government has been of help in a predominantly Scheduled Caste area is now spreading through word of mouth.
"We have taken the "Duarey Sarkar" programme to the people's doorstep. People here were waiting for the land certificates for years. Recently Mamata Banerjee had given these people her word and now they have been given land ownership documents," Pankaj Singh, Kalyani Block President, Trinamool Congress told NDTV.
Arjun Datta, who works with IPAC, said: "We are force multipliers. The party's leadership, the party's grassroots leaders are the individuals who will go into the communities and convince people to support the Chief Minister and the party's programme."
There, however, are critics of Mr Kishor as well. Those who have been expelled from the party like Baishali Dalmiya, say Prashant Kishor hasn't been able to do what he set out to.
Leaders like Suvendu Adhikari have also blamed him for their departure -- a stance the party has vehemently objected to. Suvendu Adhikari had "plans to join the BJP with 35 MLAs and try and become Chief Minister," party MP and its youth wing chief , Abhishek Banerjee said.