Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee won the high-stakes West Bengal Assembly election, defeating the might of the BJP's organisational and leadership power.
Fighting a solo battle, she carried the day with her never-say-die spirit and charisma. Helping her fine tune the poll strategy and to crunch numbers was political strategist Prashant Kishor’s Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC).
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Trinamool suffered a major setback when the BJP increased its tally from 2 to 18. Trinamool won 22 seats.
In 2020, Prashant Kishor and co. joined Mamata Banerjee to help her with assembly poll management. IPAC had already helped Jagan Mohan Reddy, Captain Amarinder Singh and Nitish Kumar with good results.
So, what worked for didi? In an interview with Opoyi, IPAC’s director and co-founder Pratik Jain gave his insight into what led to Banerjee's win in the eight-phased West Bengal elections.
What do you think worked for the Trinamool and Mamata Banerjee?
What worked for us was that, it was only Didi. There are 3-4 reasons that led to TMC’s win. First, there was no CM face that the BJP projected, the campaign was solely fought with the face of PM Modi, which worked a lot and was probably one of the biggest reasons.
Second, the elections were fought with the narrative of ‘Bohrigato vs Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chay’, which is Outsiders vs Bengal wants its own daughter, and clearly Bengal didn’t want an outsider, which worked tremendously.
Third, to remove the 10 years of anti-incumbency in the state, two programmes worked greatly for the TMC, which were ‘Duare Sarkar’ and ‘Paray Paray Samadhan’, Duare Sarkar was doorstep delivery of government services to people through outreach camps organized at the level of gram panchayat and municipal ward level.
Fourth, 10-20% candidates had been changed, incumbents were not given tickets, and tickets were only given to good candidates after proper scrutiny.
If you were to pick one particular thing or event that went against the BJP, what would that be?
I think they made a huge blunder while selecting their candidates, they could have done much better in the candidate selection process.
A lot of people, including the regional media had this feeling in Bengal after seeing BJP’s candidate list, “didn't they have candidates to give a fight?” With such poor candidate election, they had already accepted their defeat before the elections. One more reason was that they didn’t introduce a CM candidate, which if they did, could have worked better. Modi vs Didi was another big reason that went against BJP.
Do you think the elections happening in the middle of the pandemic impacted the outcome in any way?
I don’t think that the pandemic had any impact till phase 6, which was on April 22. There were no impact on votes till phase 5. From phase 6, COVID mismanagement and PM Modi still doing rallies even when COVID-19 cases were surging across the country, changed the scenario in the last two phases, which constituted around 80 seats. However it had a little effect on the outcome as the last three phases were anyway TMC’s stronghold. I haven’t checked phase wise, but it affected the BJP as it lost a few seats that it could have won.
IPAC also helped DMK with poll management, what was the basic difference in the strategies in the two states?
Both are different geographies. So in Bengal, we had an incumbent government, while DMK chief Stalin was a challenger eyeing his first victory. Without his father, MK Stalin was seeking power for the first time against the sitting- AIADMK government, so both the states were two different scenarios entirely.
Do you agree with Prashant’s statement that Punjab was the toughest election ever for you?
I won’t say that, but I will say that every campaign was unique in its own way. Bengal was also a tough campaign, our first campaign for Nitish Kumar in Bihar was also a tough campaign. Punjab was definitely a tough campaign because we were facing Aam Aadmi Party. AAP brought something to the table that thus far we were doing -- they had people of our generation on ground, who campaigned just like us, so Punjab was a tough campaign no doubt. But every campaign was individually unique.
After PK’s exit from IPAC, what future holds for the organisation?
I am not sure what he meant, actually we have not caught up until now. He has kept his view on what he wants further and now that the results are out. We will meet in a day or two and decide what we will do further, nothing is decided until now.
Have you started strategizing for 2022 Punjab elections?
No, IPAC has not taken up the Punjab elections, only PK has taken the role as advisor to the Punjab government, whether we will work in Punjab or not, that has not been decided until now. But we will sit and discuss if we will campaign in Punjab or not.