Malviya Quotes Kishor’s Leaked Audio, He Says It’s Distorted

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s election strategist, Prashant Kishor, has admitted that even their internal surveys show the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will win the fiercely fought West Bengal elections, BJP information and technology cell head Amit Malviya said on Saturday.

He tweeted four audio clips of what he said was parts of a conversation between Kishor and a group of journalists on Clubhouse app. Malviya, quoting Kishor, pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal, anti-incumbency against the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), “Muslim appeasement” of political parties in Bengal over the years and the Dalit vote would likely work favour of the BJP.

Kishor’s rebuttal was sharp and quick. He accused the BJP of “distorted use of parts of the conversation”, and asked the party to release the “full conversation”.

The controversy came on the day 44 of West Bengal’s total 294 seats were voting in the fourth round of an eight-phase polling process.

In the first tweet by Malviya, who is also the party’s co-incharge for Bengal, Kishor could be heard purportedly saying: “…Polarisation, Modi, Hindi-speaking people, SC (Scheduled Castes) — these are the factors.” Former minister Suvendu Adhikari leaving the TMC, or Kishor coming in as the TMC strategist were not the issues of significance at all, he said.

“Modi is popular here, the Hindi-speaking people have over 1 crore votes, Dalits account for 27% (of the population) — and they are fully backing the BJP. Plus, there is of course polarisation,” Kishor said.

Analysts say while the BJP has focused on the Hindu vote inclusive of all castes to win Bengal, the TMC is trying to counter that narrative by harping on the larger idea of “Bengaliness”, which focuses on all religions. It also call the BJP a party of “outsiders”, while that saffron camp has stressed time and again that a “son of the soil” will become the chief minister in its rule — in an apparent attempt to blunt such attacks.

“Matuas will be predominantly voting for the BJP, but not as unitedly as they did in the Lok Sabha (elections in 2019). I still think 75% of the Matuas will vote for the BJP and 25% for the TMC,” Kishor said.

Matuas are a Hindu Dalit sect and refugees from Bangladesh. The promise of implementing the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in the first cabinet meeting of a new BJP government in the state is resonating among them. CAA fast-tracks citizenship of Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who have arrived in India from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh before 2015.

“Even our surveys on who will form the government shows the BJP coming to power. This is because the BJP supporters are claiming the party will form the government. Of the people voting for the Left — 10-15% — about two-third think the BJP will form the government. So, the majority view you are hearing is that the BJP is coming to power,” Kishor said.

He said the perception, mostly among people from outside the state, that the BJP did not have workers on the ground in Bengal was not true. “They could be imported from the Left, but they are dedicatedly working for the BJP today,” he said, adding that the Left voters would like to see Banerjee lose.

When asked who was voting for the TMC, Kishor also clarified that he meant to say “50-55% Hindus are voting for the BJP”.

In the second clip, he said the major problem “we have to accept is that for 20 years there have been efforts to appease the minority”. For example, in Bengal the predominant belief was whoever got the Muslim vote would the elections, he added.

“The entire political ecosystem — be it of the Congress, Left or of Didi (as Banerjee is popularly known as) —has been thinking about that (getting Muslim votes). First time, Hindus are thinking that they are seeing a chance…There is some element that the BJP is exploiting. And that element is coming from blatant misuse of minority politics by some of these parties…We can’t deny that..,” he said.

In the third clip, Kishor said the Hindi-speaking people in Bengal were Modi’s core voters in Bengal. “Plus, the anti-incumbency is against the state government, not against the Centre.”

“If we do a survey of leaders, Modi and Mamata are equally popular (in Bengal) — which is a very big thing,” he said. “Bengal has not seen a BJP rule. That is a factor. The people who have not seen it (BJP rule) for 30-35 years think they (the BJP) will do something hitherto undone. They want to taste the ladoo they have not yet,” he said,

In the fourth clip, when it was pointed out the chat was generating debates on Twitter with people posting screenshots, and when Kishor “realised that the Club House room was open and his admissions were being heard by the public at large…”, “deafening silence followed”, according to Malviya.

Incidentally, in a December tweet, Kishor said he will quit Twitter if the BJP reached three figures in the results. “For all the hype AMPLIFIED by a section of supportive media, in reality BJP will struggle to CROSS DOUBLE DIGITS in #WestBengal,” he posted; it’s still the pinned tweet on his wall.

After the leaked chat controversy, Kishor issued a statement and said: “I am glad BJP guys are taking my clubhouse chat more seriously than the words or their own leaders. With regards to the selective and distorted use of part of the conversation, I urge them to release the full conversation.”

“For example, this was said in response to the question – …’how BJP is getting about 40% vote and why there is a perception that BJP is winning’.”

Political commentator Shutapa Paul, the author of Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee, said she found it hard to believe that “someone as astute as Prashant Kishor wouldn’t be aware that Clubhouse chats are recorded and can be shared”.

She said it was unlikely that Kishor would say something that he won’t be able to back politically.

“It’s a Clubhouse chat with journalists that has been selectively leaked. I think it shows an honest analysis of the factors at play in Bengal. For those who have been following Bengal politics, nothing that Prashant Kishor has mentioned will come as a surprise,” she said.

Paul added that PM Modi’s popularity, anti-incumbency and Left cadres switching to the BJP were much-talked-about issues.

“Prashant Kishor also speaks at length about the ‘perception’ that BJP is winning. So, it remains to be seen if that perception translates on the ground…,” she said.

Paul added that all political parties have their permutations and combinations worked out for every seat and that many leaders also brief journalists on ground realities.

“But at the end of the day, analysis and surveys by parties have their constraints and the verdict is decided on voting days,” she said

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