Unlike in the West, politicians in India hardly go against the party line and speak their mind. Much of it can be attributed to a lack of democracy within political parties in India, while a lack of knowledge, talent and critical faculty are also responsible to some extent.
People such as Arif Mohammad Khan (he quit the BJP in 2007), VP Singh (he resigned from Rajiv Gandhi’s Cabinet), and more recently, Saryu Rai (he left the BJP before 2019 Jharkhand assembly elections) did oppose the party line on crucial issues, but ultimately landed up resigning from their respective parties. Prashant Kishor, on the other hand, has till now held on to his position of the national vice president of Janata Dal (United), even while differing from his party on crucial issues such as the CAA-NRC.
PK, as he is popularly known, in the last two weeks has very openly come out – both on Twitter and television – criticising the Modi government on the CAA-NRC protests, much against his party’s support for the bill in the Parliament. Not only has he criticised the Act, but he has even gone out to ask the Opposition to desist from implementing the NRC.
Being dismissive of citizens’ dissent couldn’t be the sign of strength of any Govt. @amitshah Ji, if you don’t care for those protesting against #CAA_NRC, why don’t you go ahead and try implementing the CAA & NRC in the chronology that you so audaciously announced to the nation!
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) January 22, 2020
— Prashant Kishor (@PrashantKishor) December 24, 2019
In fact, this is not the first time that he has spoken against the party line or the ruling coalition. Earlier this year, one of his interviews created a storm when he said that Nitish Kumar should have gone for a fresh mandate after ditching RJD in 2017. The statement drew sharp criticism from the senior ranks, and even Nitish Kumar was said to have been upset about it.
Besides this, Kishor has time and again stood up for liberal values in these exceedingly conservative times, which is quite rare for leaders of the ruling alliance.
Although associated with the BJP-JD(U) alliance, Kishor has shown the guts to work as an election strategist for the Congress, TMC and AAP. Such an open display of ‘independent path’ is quite a unique phenomenon in Indian politics where loyalty to your party is everything. This, however, might be a calculated move on the part of Nitish Kumar, to use Kishor in order to keep the BJP at bay. Nevertheless, this doesn’t take the credit away from Kishor.
Even if we compare Kishor with the likes of Shashi Tharoor and Jairam Ramesh, PK stands apart. Despite holding an independent view, both Tharoor and Ramesh seem apologetic about their party line. This is primarily because of Congress’ structure, which owes utmost loyalty to the ‘family’.
Kishor thus stands out as a rare breed among Indian politicians who have the guts to speak their mind and chart an independent path for themselves. However, for how long he’ll be able to survive the anti-PK sentiment within the senior leaders of his own party, such as RCP Singh and Lalan Singh, remains to be seen.