Four years after helping the Congress to power in Punjab with a big win in Assembly elections, Prashant Kishor has returned to the state, signing on as "principal advisor" to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who tweeted to say the two would "work for the betterment of the people of Punjab".
"Happy to share that Prashant Kishor has joined me as my Principal Advisor. Look forward to working together for the betterment of the people of Punjab!" Mr Singh tweeted Monday.
Mr Kishor told NDTV that the offer had been on the table for the past year, and that Amarinder Singh is "like family". "I can't say 'no' to him...," Mr Kishor said.
Happy to share that @PrashantKishor has joined me as my Principal Advisor. Look forward to working together for the betterment of the people of Punjab!— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) March 1, 2021
The Chief Minister's Office tweeted shortly after, saying that Mr Kishor would get cabinet minister-rank (with associated perks) and a "token honorarium of Re 1 only".
#PunjabCabinet clears the appointment of Shri @PrashantKishor as Principal Advisor to the Chief Minister @capt_amarinder Singh in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister. pic.twitter.com/h7bTK9qKdD— CMO Punjab (@CMOPb) March 1, 2021
Punjab is scheduled to hold Assembly elections in early 2022.
The Congress swept to power in 2017 after winning 77 of 117 seats on offer; the win represented a significant increase from 2012, when it won 46 and was beaten by the Akali Dal-BJP alliance.
Mr Kishor and his IPAC, or Indian Political Action Committee, played a big role in that win, creating a number of campaign sketches that struck a chord with voters, including 'Coffee with Captain (Amarinder Singh)' to attract younger voters.
Victory in Punjab, however, was preceded by a falling out with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh; he walked out, reportedly over differences in strategy, in late 2016.
The Congress appears to be in a strong position in Punjab ahead of next year's election; the party made a clean sweep of seven municipal corporations in local body polls held early last month.
The victory in Bathinda - an Akali Dal stronghold that is represented in the Lok Sabha by former Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal - was a highlight.
It is the first time in over 50 years that the Congress controls that municipal body. Mr Singh said the victories represented Punjab's rejection of the Akalis, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party.
History has been made today!— Manpreet Singh Badal (@MSBADAL) February 17, 2021
Bathinda will get a Congress Mayor for the 1st time in 53 years!
Thank you to ALL Bathinda residents.
Congratulations to the people of Bathinda for a spectacular victory.
Kudos to all Congress candidates and workers, who toiled for this day. pic.twitter.com/Xvczq5MjfU
The Akali Dal has attacked Amarinder Singh over Mr Kishor's appointment, accusing him of "sprinkling salt on the wounds of Punjabis by appointing 'jumlabaz (who makes false promises)' Prashant Kishor.
In a statement the Akali Dal said Mr Singh would have been better served by thinking about the "1,500 farmers who had committed suicide believing the 'jumla' of Prashant Kishor's loan waiver".
The reference was to a campaign promise in 2017, in which the Congress said farmers who filled a loan waiver form would have their loans cancelled if it came to power.
Mr Singh will be aware of the challenge that the Akalis and the BJP pose in the run-up to and during the 2022 election, and he will hope that Mr Kishor can replicate his largely successful track record.
At present Mr Kishor and his IPAC are hard at work in Bengal, where he is helping Mamata Banerjee defuse a fierce challenge from the BJP with Assembly elections due to be held over a record eight phases starting March 27.
He is also working with DMK chief MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu - where elections will be held on April 6 - where too he hopes to unseat the BJP (which is in power with AIADMK).
Last year Mr Kishor signed on to help Nitish Kumar retain his position in November polls (and was made the No 2 in the party), but was expelled after openly criticising his stand on the citizenship law.
He emerged as one of Mr Kumar's fiercest critics as the JDU flopped to concede numerical advantage to both ally BJP and rival Tejashwi Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).