'NDA Harao' on Agenda? Prashant Kishor's Youth Mobilisation Ahead of Bihar Polls Raises Eyebrows

Patna: Is election strategist Prashant Kishor on an 'NDA Harao' mission in Bihar?

Kishor may have declared that his aim is not to align with any political party or combination after quitting the Janata Dal (U), but his caustic criticism of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has left people guessing about his next political move before the crucial assembly elections.

Credited with ensuring victory of the parties and leaders he worked for — which he proudly claimed saying 'party ko jitana ya harana mera kaam hai' — Kishor has declared that he will raise a force of young leaders dedicated to development in Bihar under his 'Baat Bihar Ki' campaign.

Kishor plans to reach out to every panchayat and village in the state in the next 100 days to connect with the people, especially youth, educate them and enroll them for his ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ campaign aimed at transforming the state into one of the 10 most developed states in the country.

He claimed that 2, 62,709 youth drawn from 38 districts of the state have already been registered for the ‘Baat Bihar Ki’ campaign.

Now, he plans to enroll 10 million youth by June this year when the pre-poll activities will be at its peak with seat-sharing negotiations. He claimed that his young brigade will have one million more members than the biggest party in Bihar — BJP — which claims to have enrolled nine million members.

The enormous scale of his enrolment campaign only suggests that Kishor is working on a secret and carefully-designed strategy in 8,406 panchayats and 45,000-odd villages in the state. So the natural question is — why should he indulge in such a big exercise before polls?

Though Kishor has openly said he is not working for any political outfit after deserting Kumar, many politicians do not take such an enormous exercise of mobilising youth merely as a long-term exercise for Bihar’s development.

Their thinking that the aim is entirely political does not appear to be wide off the mark.

It became evident when Kishor recently met senior Congress leaders Madan Mohan Jha, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) chief Upendra Kushwaha, Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular leader Jitan Ram Manjhi and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) chief Mukesh Sahani in New Delhi recently.

Kishor has also met former JNUSU president and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who has rounded-off his tour of Bihar against Citizenship Amendment Act. His observation describing Kanhaiya Kumar as ‘Bihar Boy’ assumes political significance as their joining hands will give a new dimension to state politics in days to come.

The conspicuous absence of any leader from the RJD is a clear indication that the party headed by Lalu Prasad does not want any compromise on the issue of chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Prasad Yadav.

The RJD has already launched campaigns projecting Tejashwi Yadav as the chief ministerial candidate and he has embarked on a ‘Berojgari Yatra’ from February 23 to highlight burgeoning unemployment in the state.

With the RJD remaining adamant on Tejashwi as the CM pick, the other partners of the Grand Alliance are also considering forging a strong political formulation minus the RJD. A section of the Congress is of the opinion that Kishor might play a crucial role in shaping an alternative alliance in the upcoming assembly elections with Kushwaha as its top leader.

The pro-RJD section in the Congress, however, is apprehensive that such a move would divide the minority votes and eventually benefit the NDA led by Kumar.

Kushwaha, too, has vociferously supported Kishor’s views on Kumar playing second fiddle to BJP. The RLSP leader also wants a strong formulation under the leadership of the Congress with him in the key role.

There can be new formulations if the RJD continued its stubborn approach towards taking help from Kishor and projecting Tejashwi as chief minister.

Kushwaha nourishes chief ministerial ambitions and he quit the NDA before the Lok Sabha polls only to join the Grand Alliance. His party lost all the parliamentary seats it contested but he has set his eyes on the top post in Bihar.

“We just want consensus on the chief ministerial candidate. The RJD being the big brother of the Grand Alliance should sit together and resolve the issue with mutual consent. There should be a coordination committee,” said RLSP national secretary general Madhav Anand.

The Bihar elections will be crucial for the BJP and the JD(U), which recently faced electoral reverses in Delhi and Jharkhand. It will also be a test for the RJD, which is a bigger ally of the Grand Alliance. It will also be a make-or-mar election for Tejashwi Yadav, whose leadership abilities are at stake due to crushing defeat in the last Lok Sabha polls.

But much water will flow down the Ganges before a concrete political formation takes shape or the small parties take a different route before the crucial polls. Will Kishor’s noble idea of a caste-less and development-oriented politics work in the caste-ridden politics in the rural hinterland of Bihar? Being a member of the upper caste, will he be able to drive the one million youth to vote for development instead of caste?

(The author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal)