Election strategist Prashant Kishor on Monday said he wanted to help form an opposition bloc that could defeat the BJP in 2024 and that it was "entirely possible" even if results of next month's state polls - seen as a semi-final of sorts for the general elections - were unfavourable.
"Is it possible to defeat the BJP in 2024? The answer is an emphatic yes. But is it possible with the present set of players and formations? Probably no," Mr Kishor told NDTV in an interview.
Warning against reading the results of next month's assembly elections as a forerunner for 2024, he said, "It is quite possible that BJP wins everything in this round and still go on to lose 2024. In 2012, UP was won by SP (Samajwadi Party), Uttarakhand by Congress, Manipur by Congress, Punjab by Akalis, but the result in 2014 was very different."
Perhaps hinting at which way he was hedging his bets for the crucial elections in Uttar Pradesh, Prashant Kishor said, "Expanding the social base is vital if you want to take on BJP in UP. The social base of the combined opposition has to be bigger than what it is today... whether it is non-Yadav OBCs or more consolidation of Dalits or forward classes."
He also detailed a blueprint of what it would take to trump the BJP in 2024. "If you take Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala - roughly 200 [Lok Sabha] seats, even at the peak of their popularity, the BJP has been able to win only 50-odd seats. In the remaining 350 seats, the BJP is sweeping everything," he said.
"What it tells you is that if the Congress or Trinamool or any other party or combination of these parties realign themselves, and reboot their resources and strategy, and say they pull about 100 seats from the 200, then the opposition can reach 250-260 even with the present numbers," Mr Kishor added.
"So, it (defeating the BJP) is possible by winning another 100 seats in the north and west," he said, revealing his end goal: "I want to help form an opposition front that can give a stronger fight in 2024."
He said the BJP had put up a very "formidable narrative" by leveraging the issues of Hindutva, hyper-nationalism and public welfare, and opposition parties had to outdo them on at least two of these accounts as well as do more than just unite in a so-called "grand alliance".
"Not a single 'grand alliance' has succeeded since Bihar 2015. Merely coming together of parties and leaders will not be sufficient. You need to have the narrative and a coherent outfit," Mr Kishor said.
He also flagged the issue of around 200 Lok Sabha seats out of India's 543 that see a largely two-way fight between the Congress and the BJP with the ruling party winning 95 per cent of these in the last two elections - an instant advantage of about 190 seats.
The 45-year-old who calls himself a "political aide" said, "Any party or leader that wants to defeat the BJP needs to have a 5-10-year perspective. It cannot be done in five months. But it will happen. That's the power of democracy. "
Explaining his own stakes, he said, "My life is not driven by this idea of defeating a person or a party. I do think that in our country, we need strong opposition. I personally feel more aligned to [the opposition ideology]. And that the Congress as an idea should not be allowed be weakened."