The parliamentary poll results on May 23, 2019 had proved the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee’s worst fear comes true after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made massive gains in West Bengal, winning 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats, up from just two in 2014.
While ‘Ma’ (mother), ‘Mati’ (soil) and ‘Manus’ (people) party was struggling for its political existence in Bengal and fearing of losing the status of a ‘national party’, Mamata (believed to be after being advised by her nephew Abhishek Banerjee) had secretly picked political strategist Prashant Kishor on June 6, 2019 to help the TMC to regain its position in Bengal’s politics, especially in the backwoods.
After 54 days of Kishor’s appointment, the outreach programme Didi Ke Bolo (Tell Didi) was launched on July 29, 2019. In a span of nearly 180 days, the TMC has not only managed to recapture all the seven municipalities which went to the BJP (due to a switchover) but also win the confidence of strong ground level leaders to rejoin the TMC.
‘Didi Ke Bolo’ programme was not just a direct communication platform with the chief minister, but it also has multiple ‘trackers’ and ‘buckets’ (software) where problems and suggestions are listed for prompt action.
More than 250 party workers are engaged round-the-clock not only to ensure each and every grievance or suggestion reaches the chief minister but also list them in various ‘trackers’ and ‘buckets’ for swift resolution. As suggested by Kishor, there are separate ‘buckets’ for all the government schemes for people and multiple ‘trackers’ for each to keep an eye on how many issues have been resolved and the time taken. And it actually worked well in the ground level in strengthening the booth level committees.
Kishor has been credited with orchestrating several electoral wins while working with the BJP, the Congress and the YSR Congress Party in particular. His first major campaign was in 2011 when he secured the victory of Narendra Modi in Gujarat for a third term as the 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 to limelight when he helped Narendra 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 JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Congress’s Amarinder Singh in Punjab and the YSRCP’s YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh. His association with the Congress for the 2017 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, however, ended in a humiliating defeat for the party.
Following Kishor’s coming on board with the TMC, the big setback for the BJP has been losing the Kanchrapara and Halisahar municipalities in the North 24 Parganas district in Bengal, which is known as a stronghold of party leader Mukul Roy — a turncoat from the Trinamool.
The BJP suffered another setback after it lost the by-elections in West Bengal for vacant Kaliaganj in North Dinajpur, Kharagpur Sadar in West Midnapore, and Karimpur Assembly seats in the Nadia district which was held on November 25, 2019.
Now, armed with most of the hits, once again Kishor is hitting the headlines following TMC’s and DMK’s scintillating show in West Bengal and in Tamil Nadu.
Recently speaking to News18, when the first phase of polling was underway in 30 Assembly seats in West Bengal, most of which were in Jangalmahal region where BJP did extremely well in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the ace political strategist once again reiterated that ‘Bengal have decided to stand with their beloved daughter (Mamata Banerjee)’.
Then, speaking to the News18.com, Kishor said, “For all, what I see people of Bengal have decided to stand with their most trusted and beloved leader which happens to be the daughter of West Bengal and she needs no introduction…her name is Mamata Banerjee.”
When asked, whether he is still maintaining his stand that the BJP will struggle to cross the double digits in West Bengal polls, he said, “As I have been on record, Trinamool Congress is heading for a decisive victory as Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chaye (Bengal wants its daughter)”.
Kishor, who is very selective about his media statements and interviews, on December 21, 2020, tweed, “For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal. PS: Please save this tweet and if BJP does any better I must quit this space!”
In a little less than two years, ever since Mamata Banerjee roped in Prashant Kishor on June 6, 2019 after the Lok Sabha poll debacle in 2019, there are tell-tale signs of things in ‘New TMC’ with a definite plan and script set for the crucial 2021 Assembly polls in the State.
The precedent shows, poll expert Kishor not only crafted the new political strategy for the TMC and ‘Didi’, but also implemented ‘system driven assessment’ in the party to identify ‘Non Performing Assets’.
Among many commandments, party leaders were strictly asked to ‘visibly change their lifestyle’, which includes luxury cars, giving contractual jobs to relatives, expensive gadgets, no to violence and hobnobbing with the district administration.
Kishor’s final masterstrokes were ‘Duare Sarkar’ (government at door step) and Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chaye (Bengal wants its daughter).
‘Duare Sarkar’ is one of the biggest outreach programmes rolled out from December 1, 2020 where benefits of government schemes will be delivered to the people at their doorsteps, through camps organised at the gram panchayat and municipality ward level.
The entire machinery of the government had worked in a mission-mode to ensure the success of this programme.
The schemes which was made available for registration for the beneficiaries at this camps were: ‘Swasthya Saathi’ (Health and Family Welfare), ‘Aikyashree’ (Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education), ‘Krishak Bandhu’ (Agriculture), ‘MGNREGS’ (Panchayat & Rural Development), ‘Khadya Sathi’ (Food and Supplies), ‘Sikshashree’ (Backward Classes Welfare & Tribal Development), ‘Kanyashree’ (Women & Child Development & Social Welfare), ‘Rupashree’ (Women & Child Development & Social Welfare), Caste Certificates (SC/ST/OBC- Backward Classes Welfare and Tribal Development), ‘Jai Johar’ (Tribal Development) and ‘Topashili Bandhu’ (Backward Classes Welfare).
Besides that, services related to other government schemes including ‘Social Pensions’ for old age persons, widows, persons with disabilities, ration would also be provided during ‘Duare Sarkar’ outreach camps.
This well-crafted outreach programme of Kishor helped the TMC to regain its lost ground across the State, mainly in North Bengal and in Jangalmahal.
Not the least, the BJP’s indiscriminate poaching and strong Hindutva pitch also boomeranged and helped Kishor in securing the TMC’s win.