Election strategist Prashant Kishor appears to be virtually daring his boss, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to pink slip him. Mr Kishor, whose bond with the Chief Minister has left him endowed with cabinet minister status in Bihar, today amplified his criticism of the Janata Dal United's decision to support the controversial Citizenship Amendment bill that was cleared at midnight by the Lok Sabha.
Mr Kishor said on Twitter that Mr Kumar is betraying the trust of Bihar's voters by agreeing to vote for the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it was put to vote today and cleared easily.
While supporting #CAB, the JDU leadership should spare a moment for all those who reposed their faith and trust in it in 2015.— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) December 11, 2019
We must not forget that but for the victory of 2015, the party and its managers wouldn't have been left with much to cut any deal with anyone.
The tweet referenced Nitish Kumar's 2015 assembly election victory in an alliance with Lalu Yadav's RJD and Congress. In 2017, Mr Kumar returned to partnering with the BJP after dumping Mr Yadav and the Congress.
Mr Kishor, 42, was not alone in urging the Chief Minister to stand against the government on the grounds that the bill allows for citizenship on the basis of religion and is therefore unconstitutional. Another important leader from the Chief Minister's party, the JDU, Pavan Verma, said yesterday: "I urge Shri Nitish Kumar to reconsider support to the #CAB in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and against the unity and harmony of the country, apart from being against the secular principles of the JDU. Gandhiji would have strongly disapproved it."
The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to give citizenship to non-Muslims who fled Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015. Opposition parties say the bill provides a legal route to Indian citizenship based on religion for the first time and is discriminatory against Muslims.
The JDU has six Rajya Sabha MPs. The BJP and its allies have enough numbers to pass the bill even though the government lacks a majority in the house.
A section of the JDU is surprised at the change of heart of the citizenship bill, critiqued in detail just weeks ago by Nitish Kumar at a party conference. In August, when the party seemed to be at odds with the BJP on key subjects like Triple Talaq and Article 370, Mr Kumar had stressed: "Be sure, there will be no compromise on crime, corruption and communalism in my rule."
Mr Kumar, sources say, has agreed to support the citizenship bill because the BJP has already agreed that he is the presumptive Chief Minister of the alliance in Bihar for state elections next year.
Mr Kishor was named advisor for planning and programme implementation to the Chief Minister in 2016. After becoming vice president earlier this year, he quit that post, which had given him cabinet rank.
Earlier this year, the strategist who pulled off spectacular victories for clients like the BJP, Nitish Kumar and Jagan Mohan Reddy, took on a new challenge - helping Mamata Banerjee against the BJP in the Bengal election due in 2021.
The BJP was rattled but ally Nitish Kumar cleared Mr Kishor of any conflict of interest in working with Mamata Banerjee.
Ironically, Mr Kishor is now firmly in consonance with Mamata Banerjee's stand on the citizenship bill, not Nitish Kumar's.