"If You Keep Dropping Catches": Prashant Kishor's Jab At Opposition

Prashant Kishor, though said that that the opposition had three distinct and realistic chances of stopping the BJP juggernaut.

'If You Keep Dropping Catches': Prashant Kishor's Jab At Opposition
New Delhi:

Validating the BJP's claims, political strategist Prashant Kishor said the ruling party will add significantly to its seats and vote share in south and east India, the two regions where its hold is weak-to-non-existent, barring Karnataka.

In an interaction with PTI editors, Mr Kishor also said despite the BJP's apparent dominance, neither the party nor Prime Minister Narendra Modi is invincible, pointing out that the opposition had three distinct and realistic chances of stopping the BJP juggernaut but frittered away the opportunities because of laziness and misplaced strategies.

"They (BJP) will either be first or second party in Telangana which is a big thing. They will be number one in Odisha for sure. You would be surprised as, in all likelihood, to my mind, the BJP is going to be the number one party in West Bengal," he said. In Tamil Nadu he said, BJP's vote share may hit double-digit percentage.

Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Kerala together account for 204 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha but the BJP couldn't cross 50 seats in all these states put together either in 2014 or 2019 when it won 29 and 47 constituencies respectively.

He, however, asserted that the BJP is unlikely to win 370 seats, its target set for the polls. In Andhra Pradesh, where assembly polls will be held alongside the Lok Sabha elections, he said Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy will find it "very difficult" to come back. Kishor had worked for Reddy in 2019 when his YSRC party had vanquished the incumbent Telugu Desam Party, now a BJP ally.

Mr Reddy, like former Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel, has gone into a "provider" mode for his constituents, instead of being a fulfiller of people's aspirations. He likened the situation to the yesteryear monarchs who took care of their people with doles and largesse but nothing more.

Similarly, Mr Reddy has ensured cash transfer to people but has done little to provide jobs or boost the stagnating development of the state, he said.

Speaking of the Lok Sabha polls starting from April 19, he said the BJP will feel the heat only if the opposition, especially the Congress, can ensure that it loses at least around 100 seats in its strongholds of north and west India. And that's not going to happen, he says.

"By and large, the BJP will be able to hold its ground in these regions," he said.

The BJP has made a major and visible push to expand in south and east India over the years as its top leaders like Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have frequented these states. On the other hand, the opposition has made little effort in these states.

"Count the number of visits the prime minister had made to Tamil Nadu in the last five years versus Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi or any other opposition leader for that matter made in battleground states. Your fight is in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh but you are touring Manipur and Meghalaya. Then how you will get success," he said in an apparent swipe at Rahul Gandhi.

Asked about his take on Rahul Gandhi's reported reluctance to contest from his family's pocket borough Amethi after losing the seat to Smriti Irani in 2019, he said the opposition party cannot win the country by winning Kerala alone.

"If you do not win in UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, there is no benefit if you win from Wayanad. Strategically, I can say that letting that space (Amethi) go will only send a wrong message," Prashant Kishor said He noted that Modi had chosen to contest from Uttar Pradesh in addition to his home state Gujarat in 2014 "because you cannot win India unless you win the Hindi heartland or have a significant presence in the Hindi heartland."

With opposition parties coming together to form the INDIA bloc to take on the BJP, he said an alliance is neither desirable nor effective to defeat the ruling party as there is already a one-on-one contest in nearly 350 seats.

The BJP has been winning because parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party, RJD, NCP and Trinamool Congress are unable to take it head-on in their own turfs, he said.

They have no narrative, face or agenda, he said.

Mr Kishor, though, rejected suggestions that a third straight win will clear the path for a long era of BJP domination, noting that the decline of the Congress began after it registered its biggest win in 1984 and has since been unable to come to power on its own.

"This is a big illusion," he said of the BJP's perceived unstoppable march under Modi, while noting that opposition parties, especially the Congress, failed to capitalise whenever the ruling party was on the backfoot after 2014.

He said the BJP had a long barren phase electorally in 2015 and 2016 when it lost several assembly polls except in Assam but the opposition allowed it to make a comeback.

The party again had a poor run post-demonetisation after its win in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017 when it almost lost power in Gujarat and was defeated in several states in 2018, but the Congress "blundered" in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

PM Modi suffered from a dip in his approval ratings following the Covid outbreak in 2020 and the BJP lost badly in West Bengal. Instead of mounting any challenge, opposition leaders sat at their homes, allowing the prime minister to make a political comeback, he said.

"If you keep dropping catches, the batter will score a century, especially if he is a good batter," Mr Kishor said.

As a political observer, he is more focused on the post-poll scenario as to what will happen if PM Modi gets another big mandate, more so as the prime minister has frequently spoken about "big decisions" to be taken in his third term.

While BJP supporters are happy about "fundamental changes" coming, he said, those opposed to the party ideologically or otherwise are worried if the big decisions will adversely impact the Constitution or democracy. People in the middle are also genuinely concerned, he said.

Prashant Kishor has worked for many major parties, including the BJP, Congress and regional satraps, of different ideological moorings since 2014 but has dedicated himself to his Jan Suraj Yatra in his home state Bihar since October 2022 with a stated goal to usher in a new politics in the state.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)