Prashant Kishor spoke to NDTV on what impact Grand Alliance 2.0 can have on 2024 general election
Numbers show that Nitish Kumar's image is not "teflon-coated", election strategist Prashant Kishor told NDTV hours ahead of the ceremony in which the Janata Dal United leader took oath as Bihar Chief Minister for the eighth time.
Mr Kishor, who was earlier a part of Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United), was speaking after a day of high drama in the politically significant state that saw Mr Kumar walk out of the alliance with the BJP and tie up with Lalu Prasad's Rashtriya Janata Dal. The BJP has accused Mr Kumar of betraying the public mandate and stressed that voters will not forgive him.
To a query on whether Nitish Kumar continues to be as popular as he was five years ago, Mr Kishor said, "If you look at the hard facts, there is a huge difference. In 2010, he had 117 MLAs, in 2015 he had 72 and now 43. Many political commentators say his image is teflon-coated. The numbers don't show that."
He added that is how the Grand Alliance 2.0 works in Bihar over the next few months that would determine its impact on the 2024 general election. "If the formation is effective in delivering what people expect them to, they will be a formidable force. If they are not able to govern well, it could turn out to be a disadvantage to then in 2024," Mr Kishor told NDTV.
Stressing that the Grand Alliance 2.0 is "very different" from its 2015 edition, he said, "This is not the same as 2015. In 2015, there was a mandate to govern. This formation of Mahagathbandhan is not that. That formation had an extrapolation beyond Bihar."
The 2015 Mahagathbandhan led by RJD and JDU had registered a decisive victory over the BJP. However, two years later, Nitish Kumar had walked out of the alliance over corruption charges against Tejashwi Yadav and joined hands with the BJP.
"In 2015, a new experiment was taken to the people. There is nothing of that sort now. The mandate was with NDA, but now a new formation is in place," Mr Kishore said. "I am not saying it is an opportunistic formation, just stating facts. This formation has seven parties and no mandate. There is a huge difference between the two," he added.
Nitish Kumar's sudden move has sparked speculation that the JDU leader wants to make a dash for the Prime Minister's post in the 2024 general election.
Asked if Mr Kumar is a credible face for the top post, Mr Kishor said, "I have not heard about Nitish Kumar pitching himself as one of the contenders (for PM post). I have not heard even the other constituents of Opposition coming together and telling that this is a path they want to take. What we are hearing is a lot of speculation. So, let this 'maybe' settle down."
"Let people judge who has the ability to become the Prime Minister. Even to become a contender, a lot of parties have to agree. It is a function of popularity," he added.
Mr Kishor had joined the Nitish Kumar-led party in 2018 but was sacked two years later on the ground of indiscipline. Asked if there is any chance of a political rapprochement with JDU, Mr Kishor said, "It's not on the table at all. I am doing my work, he is doing his. A political formation will survive only if people's lives become better. Otherwise, this is the sixth attempt at a new formation in the past 10 years. If people are not happy, any political formation is bound to collapse."