The Trinamool has extended its contract with election strategists I-PAC, or Indian Political Action Committee, to 2026 after a successful partnership saw Mamata Banerjee sweep the April-May Assembly polls and return as Chief Minister of Bengal for a third straight term.
This version of I-PAC, however, will not be led in day-to-day operations by master strategist Prashant Kishor, who guided the Trinamool (and, in Tamil Nadu, the DMK-Congress alliance) to victory over the BJP (and its southern ally, the AIADMK) and then told NDTV he wanted to “quit”.
It will be interesting to see how well I-PAC and its new nine-member leadership team can function without Mr Kishor, and how efficiently it can win elections for Trinamool and its other clients.
The new contract says I-PAC will be involved in all state elections – panchayat and local body.
The contract extension will run till the next round of Assembly elections in Bengal, by which time key states, including UP, Gujarat and Karnataka, and the country would have also held elections.
It comes a little over a week after senior Trinamool leader Partha Chatterjee told reporters the Trinamool is planning on “expanding the organisation outside Bengal”.
The party’s new General Secretary – Abhishek Banerjee – made similar comments after his promotion; Mr Banerjee, who is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew, was key in bringing Mr Kishor on board to mastermind the Trinamool’s Bengal campaign.
The contract also follows a meeting between Prashant Kishor and NCP chief Sharad Pawar in Mumbai last week. Officially it was a trip to thank Mr Pawar for supporting Ms Banerjee.
There was speculation the meeting had a larger context – one related to the 2024 election and talk of an opposition leader – buzz suggests Ms Banerjee – challenging Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Backed by Mr Kishor and the I-PAC, Ms Banerjee won 213 of 292 seats despite the BJP mounting a no-holds barred, and often vitriolic campaign, to win power in a state it has never ruled.
The Chief Minister hailed her latest win, telling NDTV it meant “the BJP can be defeated. At the end of the day it is a democracy and it is people’s choice that matter.” She was, however, more reserved about the possibility of emerging as that joint opposition candidate.
“Sometimes you cannot decide all the things right now. It is different during election. There has to be a common minimum programme… Now is the time to fight the Covid battle. After the Covid battle is over, we will decide… (but) the country cannot face this… BJP means disaster,” she said.
Over the past few months Ms Banerjee has been foremost among non-BJP leaders in calling for a united opposition to take on the party in power at the centre.
In March she wrote to ten key opposition leaders, including interim Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, and suggested they join forces to take on the BJP after the April-May round of elections.
Ahead of the 2019 election too, she was one of those advocating a unified front to battle the BJP.
There is little love lost between Ms Banerjee and the Prime Minister, with the two locking horns often since the 2019 election, most recently in the tug-of-war over her former Chief Secretary.
Last month, after election results in Bengal, Tamil Nadu and other states were declared, Prashant Kishor told NDTV he was done and wanted to “quit this (poll strategy) space”.
“I do not want to continue what I am doing. I have done enough. It is time for me to take a break and do something else in life. I want to quit this space,” Mr Kishor had said.