Why Is Prashant Kishor Facing A Pushback Within Trinamool Again?

Why Is Prashant Kishor Facing A Pushback Within Trinamool Again?

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Dec 27, 2021 10:39 PM +05:30 IST
Why Is Prashant Kishor Facing A Pushback Within Trinamool Again? Prashant Kishor (left) and CM Mamata Banerjee (right)
  • It is learnt that Mamata Banerjee was convinced by some of her senior-most party colleagues to allow her party workers and leaders, instead of I-PAC, a major role in the KMC polls.

Political strategist Prashant Kishor is facing pushback from within the senior ranks of the Trinamool Congress. While almost all party leaders are very unhappy with Kishor, some have even cautioned Mamata Banerjee against him.

Prashant Kishor and his outfit--the Indian Political Action Committee (I-PAC)--have been playing a pivotal role not only within the Trinamool, but have also come to wield a lot of power within the West Bengal state administration (read this).

The rise of Prashant Kishor and the exponential increase in his power and influence within the Trinamool has come at the cost of what many senior party leaders perceive as a commensurate decline in their roles and powers within the party.

Kishor is close to, and derives his powers, from Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and heir apparent Abhishek. The Trinamool chief also attaches a lot of importance to Kishor and has been heeding many suggestions of his.

The Trinamnool’s landslide victory in the Assembly elections held earlier this year is credited largely to Kishor’s campaign and electoral strategy, especially the social welfare schemes that were designed by him.

During the Assembly poll campaign, even top leaders of the Trinamool found themselves relegated to the sidelines with youngsters from I-PAC taking charge of their poll campaigns. All Trinamool candidates were expressly told by the Trinamool chief and her nephew that they would have to follow instructions from the I-PAC teams on how to conduct their campaigns.

Kishor’s overwhelming power and influence within the Trinamool bred resentment and this resulted in some senior leaders quitting the party and joining the BJP. On Kishor’s suggestion, Mamata Banerjee did not give party tickets to many old-timers and that, too, triggered a fair amount of bitterness within the party.

A section of senior Trinamool leaders smelt an opportunity to cut Kishor and his I-PAC down to size before the just-concluded Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) polls. They told Mamata Banerjee and Abhishek that the Trinamool is in an unassailable position in the city and there is no way that the BJP, Left or Congress can win more than half a dozen seats each.

Given this, they argued, the I-PAC need not play any significant part in the campaign for the civic polls and the party machinery, instead, should play a pivotal role. They also argued that Mamata Banerjee’s charisma, and the goodwill generated by the many social welfare schemes she had rolled out over the past few years, would be enough to ensure a big win for the Trinamool.

This pitch by a section of Trinamool leaders coincided with a fair bit of annoyance within the Trinamool’s top leadership over what was perceived at Kishor hogging the limelight in Trinamool’s outreach beyond Bengal.

Politicians from other states who had been drafted into the Trinamool were speaking highly of Kishor, and the media started portraying him as the architect of Mamata Banerjee’s national ambitions.

This depiction of Kishor as the one playing a determining role in taking the Trinamool beyond Bengal’s boundaries, and his political statements criticizing the Congress leadership, did not go down with Mamata Banerjee who never allows anyone to come even a close second to her. Kishor, in her estimation, was getting too much importance in the national arena. Mamata Banerjee suspected him of planting ‘stories’ in the national media painting him as the main person who can play a ‘make or break role’ in her ‘national ambition’.

Also, Mamata Banerjee was irritated with Kishor attempting to project himself as her spokesperson by articulating her party’s anti-Congress stance. That is what led senior Trinamool leader Derek O’Brien to draw the line between Kishor and the party (read this).

Though the Trinamool clarified later on that there exists no difference of opinion between the party and Kishor, the message went out loud and clear to everyone about where PK (as Kishor is called) stands vis-a-vis the Trinamool.

Mamata Banerjee was convinced by some of her senior-most party colleagues to allow her party workers and leaders a major role in the KMC polls. She went along with them and rejected PK’s suggestion to drop Trinamool old-timers and offer nominations to fresh faces. She also vetoed PK’s suggestion to roll out a brand new manifesto and make a number of major promises to Kolkata’s electorate.

The gambit worked and the Trinamool swept the KMC polls without any significant help from I-PAC. In fact, say Trinamool veterans, the party won the KMC elections by a landslide on its own and I-PAC had a negligible role to play in it.

A couple of these veterans, who hold that PK’s skills and role are over-hyped, told Swarajya that this is the beginning of a major pushback against PK. They also suspect that PK is playing many games and cannot be trusted fully.

“He has covert links with many parties and even the top BJP leadership. He cannot be trusted fully. Entrusting him with the critical responsibility of forging links between the Trinamool and other regional parties, of reaching out to politicians in other states and inducting them into the Trinamool, and acting as the bridge between our party supremo (Mamata) and political leaders in other states, will be totally unwise,” one the veteran Trinamool leaders who did not want to be named told Swarajya.

Another Trinamool leader said: “Let us not forget that PK had worked very closely with Narendra Modi and Amit Shah not very many years ago. In fact, (Bihar chief minister) Nitish Kumar had gone on record saying he had inducted PK into the Janata Dal (United) on Amit Shah’s recommendation. PK has covert links with many politicians and is playing his own games. He cannot be trusted”.

These veterans have already cautioned Mamata Banerjee against trusting PK too much and giving him a critical role in taking the Trinamool beyond. Mamata Banerjee, it is learnt, sees merit in their contentions.

But she has to depend on PK, whose connections spanning political divides cannot be matched even remotely by anyone in the Trinamool, if she hopes to achieve her overriding ambition of playing a major role in the national political stage.

However, the Trinamool chief appears to be veering around to the view that PK has become a bit too big for his boots and needs to be checked. Doing so may not be easy, but Mamata Banerjee has never been known to shy away from tough tasks. Especially if it is to do with her, and her nephew’s, political futures.

Also read: How Mamata Banerjee has allowed Prashant Kishor’s firm to grow into an extra-constitutional entity in Bengal

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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