In a surprising turn of events, renowned poll strategist Prashant Kishor made a noteworthy appearance at Vijayawada airport, accompanied by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) general secretary Nara Lokesh. This unexpected visit has sent shockwaves through the political corridors of Andhra Pradesh, triggering intense speculation and sparking a renewed focus on the upcoming elections in the state.

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Kishor, co-founder of the political consultancy firm I-PAC, is no stranger to the intricacies of Indian politics. Having played pivotal roles in shaping electoral strategies for various political parties, his involvement in Andhra Pradesh has raised eyebrows, especially given his association with the rival camp – advising the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP), led by Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The visit took an interesting turn as Kishor met with TDP supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, terming it a “courtesy” visit. However, in the world of politics, such courtesy meetings are often laden with strategic implications. The timing of this rendezvous, amid the ongoing electoral preparations, has heightened the intrigue surrounding Kishor’s role in the TDP’s campaign.

Currently, the TDP is under the guidance of Showtime Consulting, a firm run by Kishor’s former associates Robbin Sharma and Shantanu Singh. Seeking to recover from the setback of the 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, where the TDP managed to secure only 24 out of 175 Assembly seats and two out of 25 Lok Sabha constituencies, the party approached Kishor to provide a final push to their electoral efforts.

An associate with Showtime Consulting expressed the rationale behind seeking Kishor’s expertise, stating, “We have been doing a good job with the TDP’s campaign but wanted one big final push in the last leg of the campaign. His experience will help us immensely.” Another key element of the TDP’s campaign, Lokesh’s “Yuva Galam” padayatra, was attributed to Kishor’s strategic thinking.

The move has ignited enthusiasm among a section of TDP leaders who believe that Kishor’s involvement will significantly boost the party’s chances. One pioneer from Vijayawada commented, “Aside from his huge involvement with political counseling, the greatest benefit will be that Kishor knows the working of the YSRCP quite well.” Kishor had previously played a crucial role in shaping Jagan’s campaign during the 2019 elections.

The YSRCP responded swiftly to Kishor’s visit, with Irrigation Minister A Rambabu questioning the impact of seeking advice from someone associated with what he termed as “defective material.” State Housing Minister Jogi Ramesh went a step further, predicting that Kishor, along with another influential figure, would remove Chandrababu, emphasizing that the people had already rejected him in 2019.

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On social media, I-PAC, Kishor’s former company, clarified its collaboration with YSRCP, asserting dedication to working tirelessly for Jagan’s victory in the upcoming elections. This public declaration adds a layer of complexity to the evolving political landscape in Andhra Pradesh.

A section of TDP leaders, however, is apprehensive about potential changes in the decision-making dynamics within the party. Expressing concern, one TDP functionary mentioned, “We have seen what happened in Bengal. He is known to run the party. Our party has been very democratic, and now I feel our suggestions may not be taken as seriously as before.”

The three-hour meeting between Kishor and Naidu has put I-PAC on its toes. A senior associate at the firm acknowledged the unexpected competition, stating that while Showtime Consulting is formidable, Kishor’s unique approach could make a substantial difference. The associate hinted at potential alterations to strategies for the YSRCP in response to Kishor’s involvement with the TDP.

Amidst these political maneuvers, questions arise about the relationship between Kishor and I-PAC. Insider sources suggest ongoing discontent between Kishor and his former company, stemming from disagreements over resource allocation. Allegations have surfaced that funds were diverted more towards Bihar for Kishor’s Jan Suraaj Yatra, leading to tensions within I-PAC’s current management. Jagan’s reported dissatisfaction with Kishor’s absence from his campaign further fuels speculation about a possible fallout.

After leading the Trinamool Congress to victory in the 2021 Assembly elections, Kishor announced his “retirement” from political consultancy and embarked on the Jan Suraaj Yatra in Bihar. The unfolding developments in Andhra Pradesh add a new chapter to Kishor’s post-retirement journey, raising questions about his influence, alliances, and the evolving dynamics of political consulting in the region.

In this political chess game, where alliances and loyalties are ever-shifting, Prashant Kishor’s involvement has injected a fresh dose of unpredictability into the electoral narrative of Andhra Pradesh. As the state gears up for the upcoming elections, all eyes will be on how Kishor’s strategic acumen influences the political fortunes of the TDP and the broader electoral landscape. The stage is set for a captivating political showdown, with Kishor positioned as a central figure in this unfolding drama.

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