Poll strategist Prashant Kishor, who sets off from West Champaran on Sunday for an on-foot yatra lasting one-and-a-half years, said that he will announce the political party after the end of his yatra, adding he will neither be “elected or selected” or leading the party.
“We will announce the party soon after the padayatra. I have already announced that I will not lead it. I will neither be elected nor selected. But it will have a leader who will be selected from among its workers,” Kishor said in an exclusive interview to The Indian Express.
The ace poll strategist, who begins his yatra as part of his ‘Jan Suraj’ campaign from Gandhi Ashram in Bhitiharwa in West Champaran where the father of the nation had launched his first satyagraha movement in 1917, said that the people of Bihar are showing fatigue with the present government. “Whether they are Janata Dal (United) or Rashtriya Janata Dal supporters, or others, they want something new,” he said.
He also took a jibe at Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his efforts for Opposition unity ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“Having cups of coffee with some leaders and going for photo-ops is not the right approach to building a formidable Opposition. There has to be a clear message and narrative. Vast machinery is needed to run an effective campaign to build momentum that can defeat the BJP,” Kishor said.
He also criticised Kumar over the state of education system in Bihar, which has “totally collapsed under his rule”.
“The failure of the education system will affect two to three generations whereas broken roads can be repaired. For Nitish Kumar, education meant only constructing one or two-room pink buildings, never-ending agitation by teachers, distribution of school uniforms and bicycles, and a third-rate midday meal scheme. Tell me, where is learning?” Kishor asked.
Similar to his yatra, Kishor says that the Congress’ Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi route is “beyond his understanding”.
“Ideologically or politically, Kerala or Telangana cannot be the nerve centre of this yatra, especially when the Gujarat Assembly elections are round the corner,” he said.
“The Congress should have started the battle from the place that matters the most. From Gujarat, Rahul Gandhi could have gone to Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, and Telangana. Some people argue that their yatra is for a larger cause, not the Gujarat polls. Then, UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, or Madhya Pradesh could have the ideal place to start it. The Congress should have focussed on states where a maximum of 300 BJP Lok Sabha seats came from,” the poll strategist who has worked with the JD-U added.
With the Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal aggressively campaigning in Gujarat ahead of the upcoming polls, Kishor says he is not “inspired” by the Delhi Chief Minister, adding that he draws inspiration from Congress of pre-Independence days, in terms of selection of leadership, organisational structure or having social and moral standards.
“I do not think that Kejriwal has succeeded because of what one calls populist measures. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had done so in 2017 but it did not succeed. It succeeded this time because the Congress has set its house on fire. The AAP has gone with the same model for Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat but the results may be different. While it can be the main Opposition in Gujarat, it may not do well in Himachal Pradesh. Freebies do not work. One has to be credible,” he said.
Speaking of the yatra, Kishor said that such a 3,500-km total on-foot yatra has never been attempted in Bihar in the last 75 years.
“No vehicle will be used, nor will I go back to Delhi or Patna and resume. I will stop at villages where I reach in the evening. I have avoided national highways. I will visit all blocks and all towns and most of the panchayats. My idea is to visit a maximum number of villages and identify people who should be encouraged to join politics,” he said.