Political strategist Prashant Kishor on Saturday claimed the Bharatiya Janata Party was making “selective use of parts” of viral conversations between him and a few journalists on West Bengal elections. BJP’s Information Technology chief Amit Malviya tweeted four separate audio clips, claiming that Kishor had conceded Trinamool Congress’ defeat in the Assembly polls.
The chats were reportedly from a conversation on Clubhouse, whose invite-only app allows people to discuss varied topics in audio chatrooms. Scroll.in has not independently verified the authenticity of the audio clips.
The first audio clip contained parts of conversations on how people in West Bengal were voting. “There are votes for Narendra Modi...polarisation...Hindi speakers...SC [Scheduled Caste]...these are the factors,” Kishor said in the clip. “It does not matter if Suvendu [Adhikari] left...or Prashant Kishor arrived. Modi is popular here. [The population of] Dalits here is 27% and they are entirely on the BJP’s side...plus polarisation definitely exists.”
Someone in the chatroom is heard asking: “Which way is the Matua community going, Prashant?” The Matua community is comprised of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh. There are nearly 1.5 crore voters of the Matua community in West Bengal, who wield impact in at least 30 Assembly seats.
In response, the political strategist said the community will be “predominantly voting for BJP, not as unitedly as they did in Lok Sabha [polls]...But I think it will be 75% [in favour of] BJP and 25% for TMC”.
“We carried out a survey on who people are voting for and which government is going to come to power,” Kishor continued. “When it comes to the party that will rise to power, even our survey shows that it is the BJP. Then we analysed this and found that...even among those voting for the Left parties about two-thirds think that the BJP will form the government.”
Kishor said that “the Left parties think that Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee should at least lose”. “It is not that the BJP does not have workers on the ground [in West Bengal]...they have lots of people on the ground...all of them may be imported from the Left but they are dedicatedly working for the BJP,” he added. “There are no areas in the state where the BJP cadre is not strong.”
In the second audio clip, Kishor is heard saying: “The major problem that we have to accept is that for 20 years there’s been a blatant effort to appease the minorities.... Look at Bengal...there is just a simple philosophy here...the party that Muslims vote for is going to come to power. The entire political ecosystem...be it of the Congress...the Left...Didi [Mamata Banerjee]...they have tried to tap into the Muslim vote bank. This is the first time that Hindus are feeling included.”
“There is some element which the BJP is exploiting and that element is coming from the blatant misuse of minority politics by some of these parties,” Kishor told the journalists.
In the third audio clip, the political strategist answered a question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity in West Bengal. “Modi has a cult [following] in the entire country,” the election strategist said. “Plus the anti-incumbency sentiment is against the state government and not the Centre. Modi is quite popular here. If we were to do a survey on political leaders, Modi and Mamata are equally popular....which is a very big thing. [People in] Bengal have not seen the effect of the BJP government yet...therefore some think it is a kind of party that will do something different.”
He said that the prime minister’s poll rallies attract a huge crowd due to his popularity and mobilisation by the workers. Apart from this, he suggested that anger against the Mamata Banerjee government and BJP’s electoral machinery were working in favour of Modi.
In the fourth audio clip, someone in the chatroom said: “By the way people are tweeting about this clubhouse thing and they are saying that Prashant Kishor along with other journalists...we have declared victory of Narendra Modi in West Bengal.”
Kishor then wondered if the Clubhouse chatroom is open for others. A person said, “I don’t know...someone has just posted a screenshot on Twitter tagging me and other people and saying that we all have declared Narendra Modi’s victory in West Bengal.”
Another unidentified man’s said: “If you keep an open room for everybody to join in and listen you cannot prevent people from tweeting.” To this, a woman added, “these things don’t matter...anyone can say anything...does not make a difference.” A man is then heard saying: “I know but this is often seen as evidence. One more thing I just need people to remember is that whatever you say on clubhouse is recorded.”
Kishor reacted to the conversations on Saturday morning. “I am glad BJP is taking my chat more seriously than words of their own leaders,” he tweeted. “They should show courage and share the full chat instead of getting excited with selective use of parts of it. I have said this before and repeating again – BJP will not to CROSS 100 in West Bengal. Period.”
The audio clips were shared by a number of BJP leaders when 44 constituencies spread across five districts of Howrah, South 24 Paraganas, Hooghly, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar went to polls in the fourth phase of elections. Over 1.15 crore voters will decide the fate of 373 candidates fielded in this round of polling.