Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) political consultant K Sunil exited the Tamil Nadu-based party this week amid talks between its chief MK Stalin and poll strategist Prashant Kishor. Kishor was approached by the state's ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) as well, but even after chief minister EK Palaniswami met senior representatives of the election strategist-led Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) earlier this year, the talks fell through.
Sources say Kishor may head the DMK’s campaign for the Tamil Nadu assembly elections scheduled for 2021 as negotiations are in the final stages.
Kishor has been credited with orchestrating several electoral wins while working with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, YSR Congress Party, and Trinamool Congress (TMC) in particular. His first major campaign was in 2011 when he secured the victory of Narendra Modi in Gujarat for a third term as chief minister. The 42-year-old trained in public health and worked with the United Nations for several years before entering the Indian political scene.
He came under the spotlight when he helped Modi and the BJP win the 2014 general elections with innovative canvassing techniques: the chai pe charcha (talks over tea) campaign, 3D rallies, conclaves and social media programmes. Since then, Kishor has aided in electing to power JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Congress's Amarinder Singh in Punjab and the YSRCP's YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. He is working on the Trinamool's plans for the 2021 Bengal assembly elections and also strategised for the party's campaign for this month's bypolls: it won all three seats. Kishor's association with the Congress for the 2017 assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, however, ended in a humiliating defeat for the party.
Sunil K, originally from Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC, made a visible mark in Stalin’s image makeover ahead of the May 2016 state assembly elections: a blend of social media push and on-ground outreach from the chief ministerial aspirant that was clearly felt in political circles. The DMK did improve its tally in the assembly but fell short of the needed numbers: key among the reasons was the decision to ally with the Congress in the state, analysts say.
Kishor also has a contract with superstar Kamal Haasan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM). The agreement which ends in January will not be renewed, said a source from the MNM.
The 2021 Tamil Nadu assembly elections will be the first one without late chief ministers J Jayalalithaa and M Karunandhi. Superstar Rajinikanth has promised to launch his party and contest the polls while Haasan said his MNM will be strategising for the elections. Both Rajini and Kamal recently stated that they will work together if the situation arises.