When Prashant Kishor's Campaigns Lit The Fire Of Parochialism
Prashant Kishor, former political strategist who is currently on a yatra across Bihar, recently asked the Tamil Nadu government as to why no action had been taken against Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) leader Seeman for his anti-north Indian speeches.
A few days before this he had said that while it is true that fake videos of attacks on Hindi-speaking migrant workers had been widely shared in social media, he was in possession of genuine videos of real attacks on the migrant workers and would share them soon.
Record of I-PAC's clients
While it is good that Kishor is asking the Tamil Nadu government to take action against Seeman, he and his political consultancy firm, i.e., the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) have often been seen on the side of the political party fanning parochialism (and even xenophobia) on the eve of Assembly elections in their respective states.
Many of the campaigns that Kishor undertook with Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC) resorted to the 'insider versus outsider' theme.
A look at some of the slogans used during the election campaigns Kishor was associated with include:
Bihari versus Bahari' in Bihar 2015
UP ke Ladke' in UP 2017
'Bohiragoto' in West Bengal 2021
'Hindi Theriyathu Poda' in Tamil Nadu 2021
'Hindi Theriyathu Poda' T-Shirts in Tamil Nadu
The slogan when translated to English means, 'I don't know Hindi. Get lost!'
While the story goes that DMK MP Kanimozhi had started the campaign in 2020 after a Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel at the Chennai airport allegedly asked her if she was an Indian when she told him that she does not know Hindi, political commentators have said that it is the I-PAC that had seized the opportunity to make it an election issue and a trend on social media.
One after the other, DMK functionaries and celebrities started posting pictures wearing these t-shirts. A photo of Udhayanidhi Stalin wearing the t-shirt went viral on social media. By the very first evening, a Twitter hashtag with the slogan had about 1.75 lakh tweets.
While DMK leaders maintained that they were not against Hindi as a language but against Hindi imposition, the implied purpose of the slogan was clear.
This was coupled with other campaign material such as a video in which a group of Tamil youth say that north Indians are taking away their jobs. MK Stalin then appears in the video and says that all these problems would be solved if the DMK comes to power.
Bihari versus Bahari- 2015 Bihar
This slogan was used by the Janata Dal (United)- JD(U)'s Nitish Kumar in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election to ask people to vote for him, a 'Bihari' and an 'insider', instead of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who he said were 'Bahari' or 'outsiders'.
It was the time when Kumar had formed the Grand Alliance with Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress. After the victory in the election, Kishor was offered an advisory position by Kumar and later on he became a vice-president of the JD(U). He was expelled from the party in 2020.
UP Ke Ladke- 2017 Uttar Pradesh
The alliance between Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi was termed as an alliance of 'UP Ke Ladke', i.e., 'Boys of Uttar Pradesh' which was up against Narendra Modi, again an outsider or 'Bahari'.
Kishor's I-PAC was then working on Uttar Pradesh assembly polls for the Congress.
The slogan was based on the fact that family roots of both Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi lie in Uttar Pradesh while Modi belonged to Gujarat.
Eventually though, the Samajwadi Party (SP)-Congress alliance was wiped out in the election and the BJP received a historic mandate.
'Bohiragoto'- 2021 Bengal Assembly Election
The fact that a number of the BJP's star campaigners were from outside the state and were Hindi-speakers was used by the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) to run a campaign calling the BJP a 'Bohiragoto' which means 'arrived from outside.'
Kishor was deeply involved with the campaign and was given a lot of credit for the TMC victory. A few months after the elections though, senior leaders of the TMC reportedly grew unhappy with the changes he had been driving in the party through Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
Today, when Kishor is asking for action on those spreading anti-north Indian sentiment in Tamil Nadu, it is only obvious that political campaigns he was closely associated with also come under scrutiny.
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