"3 Missed Opportunities For Opposition": Prashant Kishor To NDTV

Mr Kishor also criticised the INDIA bloc's failure to announce a common prime ministerial candidate - something the BJP has also used to attack the opposition group.

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor spoke exclusively to NDTV.

New Delhi:

Poll strategist Prashant Kishor has scoffed at the Congress-led INDIA bloc's chances of defeating the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha election, arguing the opposition grouping had failed to capitalise - multiple times - when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government was on the defensive. He made specific mention of the contentious Ram Mandir (consecration in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya), saying, "The opposition virtually lay down arms (after the event). By the time they woke up again, in February, it was too late."

"By the time INDIA bloc came into action, it was too late... the BJP had already recovered space it lost," Mr Kishor, who orchestrated winning campaigns for three members of the opposition group - the Trinamool, the Congress, and the DMK - told NDTV on Tuesday.

Mr Kishor also criticised the INDIA bloc's failure to announce a common prime ministerial candidate - something the BJP has also pounced on - and suggested this told the voters the opposition group "does not have a reliable face... or a strong narrative against the BJP".

He also criticised the group for failing to act after it was formed in June last year. 

The INDIA bloc declared then its purpose was to defeat the BJP in every election, including the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, but failed to find common ground in five state elections held in November. In fact, disagreements with Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party over six Madhya Pradesh seats made headlines.

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The Congress was thumped by the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, after which Trinamool boss and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Mr Yadav both criticised the larger party.

The Trinamool had its own seat-share problems with the Congress, which resulted in Ms Banerjee fighting this election on her own, and potentially splitting votes in the BJP's favour.

In recent days, however, she has stressed that she remains a part of the INDIA bloc.

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Mr Kishor's warning to the opposition echoes that which he made in April.

He had then said the BJP will add significantly to its seats and vote share in the southern and eastern India, two regions where its hold is weak-to-non-existent, barring Karnataka. He also said the BJP and Mr Modi were not invincible, but the opposition lost three distinct and realistic chances to defeat the party.

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The three chances he was referring to were the saffron party's indifferent state election results in 2015 and 2016. Over those two years the party lost multiple Assembly polls. 

The opposition, Mr Kishor has long argued, should have pressed its advantage in those 24 months to derail what has since become a formidable election-winning machinery.

The second chance was post-demonetisation, when the BJP had a big win in 2017 to win Uttar Pradesh for the first time in over a decade but almost lost Gujarat (the PM's home state), which it has ruled since 1995. Mr Kishor said the Congress "blundered" in the 2019 election, in which it got just 52 seats.

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The final "dropped catch", as Mr Kishor put it, was a dip in the Prime Minister's approval ratings post the Covid pandemic, and the BJP's poor showing in the Bengal election. "If you keep dropping catches, the batter will score a century, especially if he is a good batter," Mr Kishor had warned two months ago.

The seven-phase general election concludes on June 1, when Mr Modi's Varanasi seat will vote.

Results will be out on June 4.

With input from PTI

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