Chandigarh:

Four years after helping the Congress secure a big win in Assembly elections, Prashant Kishor has returned to Punjab, signing on as “principal advisor” to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who tweeted to say the two would “work for the betterment of the people of Punjab”.

“Happy to share that Prashant Kishor has joined me as my Principal Advisor. Look forward to working together for the betterment of the people of Punjab!” Mr Singh tweeted Monday.

Confirmation of Mr Kishor’s appointment comes after speculation that he has been working with the Amarinder Singh and the Congress government for over six months now.

Punjab is scheduled to hold Assembly elections in early 2022.

The Congress swept to power in 2017 after winning 77 of 117 seats on offer; the win represented a significant increase from 2012, when it won 46 and was beaten by the Akali Dal-BJP alliance.

Mr Kishor and his IPAC, or Indian Political Action Committee, played a big role in that win, creating a number of campaign sketches that struck a chord with voters, including ‘Coffee with Captain (Amarinder Singh)’ to attract younger voters.

Victory in Punjab, however, was preceded by a falling out with the Congress in Uttar Pradesh; he walked out, reportedly over differences in strategy, in late 2016.

The Congress appears to be in a strong position in Punjab ahead of next year’s election; the party made a clean sweep of seven municipal corporations in local body polls held early last month.

The victory in Bathinda – an Akali Dal stronghold that is represented in the Lok Sabha by former Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal – was a highlight.

It is the first time in over 50 years that the Congress controls that municipal body. Mr Singh said the victories represented Punjab’s rejection of the Akalis, the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party.

A strong showing in local polls aside, Mr Singh wil be aware of the challenge that the BJP will pose in the run-up to and during the 2022 election, and he will hope that Mr Kishor can replicate his largely successful track record in state elections.

At present Mr Kishor and his IPAC are hard at work in Bengal, where he is helping Mamata Banerjee defuse a fierce challenge from the BJP with Assembly elections due to be held over a record eight phases starting March 27.

He is also working with DMK chief MK Stalin in Tamil Nadu – where elections will be held on April 6 – where too he hopes to unseat the BJP (which is in power with AIADMK).

Last year Mr Kishor signed on to help Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar retain his position in November polls (and was made the No 2 leader in the party), but was expelled after openly criticising his stand on the citizenship law.

He emerged as one of Mr Kumar’s fiercest critics as the JDU flopped to concede numerical advantage to both ally BJP and rival RJD.

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