Politics

Prashant Kishor Crafted An Image Makeover For Mamata Banerjee, It Is Unravelling Now Because She Trusts Her Instincts More

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a press conference. (Sanchit Khanna/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Mamata Banerjee is her old self now, and the assiduously-crafted strategy of Prashant Kishor lies in tatters.

After the rude jolt she received in the Lok Sabha elections earlier this year, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee roped in political strategist Prashant Kishor to reverse her declining political fortunes.

Kishor got to work immediately and made an exhaustive set of recommendations to the Bengal Chief Minister. Foremost among them was a comprehensive strategy for Banerjee’s image makeover.

Kishor rightly identified Banerjee’s mercurial image, and her indiscreet and often inane utterances, as the primary problems.

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Banerjee’s default political mode of opposing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre on every single issue, her vitriolic attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and her political brinkmanship were her debilitating drawbacks, surmised Kishor.

He then set in process a carefully-crafted strategy aimed at a complete image makeover for Banerjee. The objective was to project her as a mature, erudite, measured and sober politician — all that the Trinamool chief is not.

Kishor and his team worked very assiduously on this image makeover, advising Banerjee on every single issue and ensuring that she does not shoot off her mouth on everything, as she is prone to.

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The Trinamool chief received briefings from Kishor almost on a daily basis on major issues. Kishor also started drafting statements on different issues for her to read out, and she was advised to strictly stick to the script.

She was also advised against losing her cool in public and project a sober image at all times. Kishor advised her to respond to only major issues of national importance while fielding her ministers and senior party leaders to respond to everyday issues.

This worked for about four months, and Banerjee was rarely heard, though she was seen frequently in public. She started projecting herself as a temperate person, and stopped throwing angry tantrums in public.

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Political observers were pleasantly surprised to see her smiling frequently in public, a stark departure from the often angry visage that she used to display earlier. And most important, she stopped her verbal and sharp attacks on Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

But then the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) happened, and the mask that Kishor had made her put on came off in a flash. Banerjee reverted to her old self and the assiduously-crafted strategy of Kishor now lies in tatters.

The Trinamool chief was faced with a grave political crisis caused by vandalism and rioting by Muslim mobs protesting the CAA (read this and this). In a bid to preserve her Muslim vote bank, she took the lead in anti-CAA protests and in doing so, threw Kishor’s caution to the winds.

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While leading the anti-CAA protests through walkathons and public meetings, the old Banerjee was back in full form. Angry and often incoherent and incomprehensible utterances, haranguing, comical gestures and slogans, and full-throated abuse of Modi, Shah and the Bharatiya Janata Party marked her anti-CAA protests.

Some of the preposterous slogans that she raised, like this, went viral and attracted nationwide mirth and ridicule. Her call for a United Nations-monitored plebiscite to determine support for or against CAA drew widespread criticism and condemnation.

Her bizarre statements like if you are a  rock , we are like rats that can nibble away at it delivered in pidgin Hindi also drew ridicule.

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Over the last one week since she launched her vitriolic and vehement anti-CAA  projects, Banerjee came across as a callow politician who is intemperate, indiscreet and gets carried away by emotion.

“No amount of restraint, well-meaning advice and tutoring helps a person like Mamata Banerjee. She is essentially impulsive and faced with a crisis or a tough situation, her true self will also come out,” said psychiatrist Sanjay Bose.

Banerjee’s close aides say that Kishor did intervene and advised her to follow his script. He advised her restraint.

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However, Banerjee is learnt to have told her close lieutenants that she does not need to be taught political sense and would go by her instincts. These instincts, she pointed out, catapulted her to power through the Nandigram and Singur anti-land acquisition stirs.

Kishor’s image makeover for Banerjee now lies in tatters. And no amount of re-crafting can erase the images of an angry Banerjee raising ludicrous slogans (while opposing the CAA) from collective public memory.

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