Wednesday, July 14 2021

Dive In

Three lads who were brilliant all summer had the courage to step up & take a pen when the stakes were high. They deserve support & backing not the vile racist abuse they’ve had since last night. If you abuse anyone on social media, you’re not an @England fan and we don’t want you.

That was England captain Harry Kane’s response to haters who picked on Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka—all of whom missed the penalty kick during the final against Italy. That’s very tough language for a usually diplomatic Kane, and rare in professional football where big stars rarely call out fans in such a blunt fashion. Also read: Rashford’s brilliant response to the heckling. Our favourite line: I’m Marcus Rashford, 23 year old, black man from Withington and Wythenshawe, South Manchester. If I have nothing else I have that.”

Big Story

Editor’s note: We will be taking Friday, July 16, off as a mental health day for our team. We’re all feeling a bit burnt out after working weekends all through our birthday month. So we’re giving ourselves a belated gift of a day of rest. We will be back on Monday, July 19, all refreshed and ready to go!


The magical Mr. Prashant Kishor

The TLDR: The current grand wizard of electoral politics met with the Gandhi trimurti—Rahul, Priyanka and Sonia. And as with all things Kishor does, the event immediately set off a hot buzz of speculation of a brewing third front to take on the BJP in 2024. But who is this guy? What does he actually do? And could he out-wizard the other election-winning mahaguru (and bitter rival) Amit Shah?


First, why do I care about this guy?

Because he is the only political strategist that has been able to best the BJP in recent times. Kishor helped craft Mamata’s Banerjee’s victory in Bengal—despite the best efforts of the Modi-Shah combine. And he worked with MK Stalin to engineer DMK’s return from the wilderness in Tamil Nadu—which again was a setback for the incumbent party, BJP ally AIADMK. And he’s the only guy in the country who can openly troll our Home Minister, declaring


“I do not wish to sound arrogant, but I must say Amit Shah is a most overrated political and poll manager. A disaster. What does he have to show for his great and fabled election management?”


Rumbles of 2024: After the two big wins in the recent state elections, Kishor has been doing the rounds of the Opposition bigwigs—despite brashly declaring he is “quitting this [election] space.” Earlier, he met the grand old man of NCP, Sharad Pawar thrice in a row—around the time Pawar hosted a meeting of Opposition leaders at his home. Now, he’s been given an audience with not just one, but all three Gandhis—and media reports suggest they discussed not just upcoming state elections, but also the big one in 2024.


Point to note: Kishor himself claims to be sceptical about a coalition effort to take on PM Modi: "I don't believe a Third or Fourth Front could emerge as a successful challenge to the current dispensation"—and is not “suited to the current political dynamic.” Then again, Kishor says many things—mostly to hedge his bets, and keep everyone guessing.


Ok, tell me about Kishor

The basic bio: The 44-year old—nicknamed PK—is a small-town boy who grew up in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh—but went on to work as a public health professional at the United Nations. He was working in Chad when he chucked his job to start a new career as a campaign consultant for Chief Minister Modi in 2011—just a year before the state elections. Modi was reportedly impressed by a paper he authored on malnutrition rates in Gujarat.


The company: Kishor set up his consultancy firm Indian-Political Action Committee (I-PAC) after he parted ways with Modi—soon after he became Prime Minister in 2014. Its three directors are Rishi Raj Singh, Pratik Jain and Vinesh Chandel. Jain and Singh are former IIT-ians, while Chandel graduated from the National Law Institute University in Bhopal. The average age of the I-PAC employee is 25/26—and the staff size shrinks and expands based on whether there is an election round the corner. Oddly, Kishor has no stake in the company, and does not hold any formal title. 


Kishor’s score card: Like any election guru, Kishor’s had his defeats—but they have been few and far between:

  • After steering Candidate Modi to success in 2014, Kishor helped the winning Nitish Kumar-Lalu Prasad Yadav alliance beat BJP in Bihar. 
  • In fact, Kishor joined the JDU and was a vice president—but soon left after a big fallout with Kumar.
  • His next outing was as Congress leader Amarinder Singh’s state election campaign in 2017—which was a success. 
  • But the same year, he failed resoundingly in Uttar Pradesh as the adviser to the Congress-Samajwadi Party combine. I-PAC sources claim he wanted Priyanka Gandhi to be the chief ministerial face of the campaign—which has rejected the first family. 
  • Kishor brushed the whole episode off and went on to help Jagan Mohan Reddy win the gaddi in Andhra Pradesh in 2019, followed by Shiv Sena in Maharashtra the same year, and AAP in Delhi in 2020.
  • And, of course, this year brought big wins in Bengal and Tamil Nadu.


An ideological agnostic: Kishor has worked with practically every party on every possible side of the political aisle—and that’s his signature trait, as Outlook magazine observes:


“Influenced by Barack Obama's use of the social media and communication strategies in his Presidential campaigns of 2008 and 2012, [he]... has appropriated the term 'ideological agnostic' to explain the contradiction. As consultant his expertise, he points out, lies in building a team to manage election campaigns professionally and his ideology-neutral services come at a price. As advisor and consultant he brings in a team of strategists, number crunchers, communication experts, media planners, appropriate technology, trainers and surveyors to help a campaign. Period.”


Though I-PAC leaders have taken care to point out that they have mostly worked with non-NDA parties—i.e. not with the BJP, often insisting:


“People are quick to point out that he has no moral high-ground to differentiate between Gandhi and Godse, having helped an RSS pracharak become the country’s PM. But it is equally true that PK has defeated the BJP or NDA in more direct battles than any other leader today.”


But what does he actually do?



In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • South Africa is up in flames
  • Cornel West has resigned
  • A Twitter brawl over a BJP banner
  • Say hello to Naomi Barbie!


A list of curious facts

  • Did you know that the Qutb Minar has a twin in Afghanistan?
  • Would you get a ‘pandemic tattoo’?

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