February 07, 2019

prashant-kishor-nitish-kumar

When JDU vice-president Prashant Kishor met top Shiv Sena leaders in Mumbai on Tuesday, he not only made a pitch for Sena to continue its alliance with BJP in the upcoming elections, and offered his expertise in managing the Sena campaign, but stunned them by floating party boss Nitish Kumar’s name as possible PM candidate in the event of a badly hung verdict, according to Sena insiders.

Analysing the elections and postpoll scenarios, Kishor told Sena leaders that in the event of a hung verdict, where BJP would find it difficult to lead a government, “around 100 MPs” belonging to regional, non-NDA parties could extend support to somebody like Nitish Kumar to lead a non-Congress government.

According to sources, Kishor named the YSR Congress Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK, among others, as potential Kumar backers. Apart from Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Kishor had also met senior Sena leaders such as Aaditya Thackeray and Sanjay Raut.

When ET asked Shiv Sena parliamentary party leader Sanjay Raut on Wednesday what Kishor discussed with Sena leaders, he said: “When Prashant Kishor met the Shiv Sena leaders on Tuesday he offered his services for Shiv Sena’s election preparations. More than that, Kishor also gave us his analysis of the emerging electoral scene and his take on some post-poll possibilities for government-making."

Sena leaders only listened to Kishor’s alliance appeal and analysis, though it is learnt that some of them during intra-party discussion said that Kishor’s mission was also meant to provide Sena an incentive to remain in NDA. Incidentally, JDU leader KC Tyagi told the media on Tuesday that Kishor’s meeting with Sena leadership was meant to “further strengthen the NDA."

While offering the Sena leadership his election-management skills, Kishor talked about his team managing YSRCP’s poll preparations in Andhra.

While the Sena leadership made no commitment to Kishor, some Sena leaders felt their party had the timetested Thackeray leadership, organisational machinery and cadre capable of winning a decent number of seats in any election.

The Sena sceptics are also believed to have said that the Modi-led NDA would have swept the 2014 Lok Sabha polls even without Kishor’s strategies and YSRCP would anyway win Andhra this time. They pointed out that Kishor flopped in the real test — working for the UP Congress for the 2017 assembly elections — while the Punjab Congress victory was credited to Captain Amarinder Singh’s popular appeal. Sena is yet to respond to Kishor’s offer.

Meanwhile, sources said, after discussions with northeast leaders, Sena has decided to oppose the citizenship bill in the Rajya Sabha.