- Prashant Kishor, election strategist, had cabinet minister rank
- But he cannot be linked to Nitish Kumar's new alliance with BJP
- Prashant Kishor wants to work with anti-BJP parties
However, Prashant Kishor left the Bihar capital in April 2016 to work with the Congress on its campaign to get Amarinder Singh elected as Chief Minister of Punjab. He has, since then, spent only seven hours in Patna, said sources, on a short stopover in April. At the time, he handed a resignation letter to the Chief Minister. It was undated. Nitish Kumar, he said, could use it whenever needed.
Prashant Kishor met Nitish Kumar through top aides of the Chief Minister in 2014. Both were smarting from political setbacks. Prashant Kishor helped design and deploy the hi-tech campaign that saw Narendra Modi become Prime Minister. Nitish Kumar, in a major miscalculation, had aborted his alliance with the PM's party ahead of the general election. Prashant Kishor was being sidelined by the PM's closest aide, Amit Shah. Nitish Kumar had won just two parliamentary seats in Bihar.
They decided to work together on the re-election bid of Nitish Kumar for a third back-to-back term as Chief Minister. Nitish Kumar allegedly ignored Prashant Kishor's early objections to proceed with a three-way alliance with the Congress and former rival Lalu Yadav. For the opposing team, the Prime Minister campaigned relentlessly across Bihar. But it was the "Grand Alliance" or Maha-Gathbandhan, which combined the caste-based support groups of the different parties that proved super-strong. Nitish Kumar took office and the opposition at the national level began accepting that to defeat PM Modi and his immense approval ratings, it was this sort of multi-party arrangement that would have to be constructed.
Prashant Kishor, as thanks for Nitish Kumar's big win, was given the rank of a cabinet minister and assigned to implement a major programme - the Bihar Vikas Mission - for the development of the state that included seven schemes including electricity for all and credit cards for students. Prashant Kishor, advised by Nitish Kumar to dress in a white kurta-pyjama while in Patna, remained an occupant of the Chief Minister's home at the time (Nitish Kumar has since moved into another house) but accepted neither the salary nor the perks due to him with his new status.
He did not attend a single meeting called to implement the policies entrusted to him. But the Chief Minister had by then accepted his desire to work for the Congress to win the Punjab election. There was no conflict of interest - the party was after all in alliance with Nitish Kumar in his home state. He was loaning an asset with a track record of electoral home runs.
Though his client won Punjab, it was pelted in the politically-prized state of Uttar Pradesh and the hill state of Uttarakhand despite Prashant Kishor designing both campaigns. He then moved south to explore working with Jagan Mohan Reddy, opposition leader in Andhra Pradesh. It was earlier this month that the deal was formally announced as done.
Last week, when Nitish Kumar junked the Congress and Lalu Yadav to restore his old alliance with the BJP, it became clear that Prashant Kishor would have to officially be dropped from any role in Bihar. The 40-year-old strategist has made no secret of his commitment to working with anti-BJP parties and in particular the Congress to get even for being marginalised after the big 2014 triumph. Sushil Kumar Modi of the BJP, now the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, has in the past questioned the senior rank accorded to Prashant Kishor, who, he said, was perpetually MIA.
It's unclear whether Nitish Kumar will announce that Prashant Kishor is no longer linked in any way to his administration. Given his fondness for the strategist, a loose understanding of moving on may suffice. For Prashant Kishor, said to now be keen on foraying into Tamil Nadu, the timing is propitious - he is now free of any obligations that would bind him to Patna.