In 14th century Italy, the Renaissance had a shaky start. Every Italian city-state functioned as an independent country ruled by powerful families. Naturally invasions, internecine jealousies and bad economics sent most of them into decline.
Italy was coming apart. Then came along a man who would unite Italy - the Latin Chanakya, Niccol Machiavelli, a minor bureaucrat and political advisor to the Borgia family. Machiavelli realised that the Borgias through duplicitous, corrupt and bloodthirsty means could amalgamate Italy.
Along with Leonardo da Vinci and Cesare Borgia, Machiavelli was an unlikely parent of the Renaissance. Centuries later, an Indian Machiavelli has arrived not to inspire a moribund Italian familia, but to unite the ideologically divided, dynasty-driven Opposition. Prashant Kishor aka PK, the ambitious, value-neutral election mercenary, could be the egg white that glues the Opposition together.
Every ambitious public figure has an incremental political agenda. PK vainly expected that Modi would give him political accreditation since he was a vital stakeholder in the BJP's victory. PK was seeking a tryst with history, not content to remain a mere election innovator. History seems to have obliged.
The tactician behind Mamata Banerjee's thunderous victory declared that he was no longer in the election game. He had bigger fish to fry. PK's manoeuvre to mold a non-Congress alternative is the opening gambit to be the acceptable outsider in a Grand Alliance that will oppose the BJP in 2024.
The Congress is not invited to the party. After a brief stint as its poll advisor in UP, PK saw the rot within - Sonia Gandhi's iron grip, the disgust of young performers and the deadweight Gandhi siblings pulling the party down.
On June 12, Kishor had lunch with Sharad Pawar, the most credible Opposition leader today. The BJP responded acidly—does the fact that it reacted to a lunch meeting reveal nervousness? PK's obvious strategy is to bring Mamata, Uddhav Thackeray, MK Stalin, Arvind Kejriwal, Akhilesh Yadav on one soapbox. Insiders say that PK expects this syndicate to get around 300 seats. He would then use his personal rapport with the Gandhis to leverage support for such a coalition with or without Pawar as the head.
Prashant Kishor is not to be dismissed. He quit the UN to help elect a prime minister and many chief ministers, and has now become a full-fledged politician. His career is an algorithm of practical realism. His ethical positioning has made him a perfect fit in the Opposition rainbow, whether quitting Modi in 2014 or lambasting Nitish Kumar over CAA.
Even if Opposition Unity by PK is a fanciful daydream for Modi's detractors, Kishor's unexpected intervention has blown a hole in the theory that India lacks an Opposition. It has one, and it is not the Congress party.
Though both the BJP and the Congress have previously dismissed NDA and UPA coalitions as khichdi sarkars, they completed full terms. The BJP's real enemy is not Rahul, it is Prashant Kishor. Training its guns on him will give PK what he desires the most - national political stature. He will be the author of the new political Renaissance.
An important character in 15th century Renaissance theatre is "Machiavelle", a villain who shows a good face to disarm his allies so that he can betray them in the end. But then, in the drama that is politics, one party's good guy is another party's bad guy.
(The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)