Narendra Modi (Won). Nitish Kumar (Won). Rahul Gandhi (Lost). Three elections in about three years, and the career graph of election strategist Prashant Kishor, whose Samajwadi Party-Congress disaster today is a blot on his otherwise impressive resume that boasted of two back-to-back mega wins: Modi in 2014 and Nitish a year later. Contrast that with BJP president Amit Shah, who, after winning the country for the BJP in 2014 (of course, working with Kishor), has now emerged as India's unchallenged master strategist when it comes to engineering an election victory.
THE SHAH OF ELECTIONS
Recreating the 2014 super-wave, Shah's BJP has won a landslide 3/4th majority with 297 seats in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly. That is a remarkable feat, considering the anger among party leaders in the state over ticket distribution, and among the voters over demonetisation.
Terming Verdict 2017 a victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership, Shah even claims the BJP will get four of the five states that went for polls.
"In four states we are going to form government, we have lost Punjab but we have got more than 30 percent votes," Shah said. "The historic mandate given to BJP in all five states will give a new direction to Indian polity," he said.
Since 2014, Shah has led from the front, ensuring massive Assembly elections victories. In 2014, shortly after the BJP won its biggest Lok Sabha victory ever, the party went on to bag Haryana, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra.
In 2015, Jharkhand was won. Bihar and Delhi were the two setbacks for the BJP that year. By now, Kishor had switched sides and was helping Nitish Kumar beat the BJP - his ally for 17 years - in alliance with Lalu Prasad. In Delhi, it was Arvind Kejriwal, who still remains an eyesore for the BJP in the national capital.
And then there was Assam, the BJP's stunning entry into India's north-east, where the party now has a network of political coalitions. The neck-and-neck battle in Manipur today is an example of that.
THE PRASHANT KISHOR STORY
For Kishor on the other hand, the days of glory seem to be over. His stitching of an unlikely alliance between Samajwadi Party and the Congress that hoped to bank on 'UP boys' Akhilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is a complete washout with a tally of 69.
That is his first election defeat in three years. (The Congress win in Punjab is credited more to the diligence of Captain Amarinder Singh than anybody else, including Rahul Gandhi)
To be fair to Kishor, he had a tough stint with the Congress, with most senior leaders in Uttar Pradesh snubbing most of his plans. His plan to get Rahul Gandhi declared as the Congress's chief ministerial candidate and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra hold a more aggressive campaign was not appreciated.
In the three-year careers that the two election strategists share, Amit Shah has emerged as the uncontested winner. What Kishor does next will be closely watched.