It may seem like a bit of political incongruity but Mayawati’s confidant-in-chief is a Brahmin. Satish Chandra Mishra, virtually number two in the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), has over the years emerged as the key political advisor, election manager and deal-maker for ‘Behenji’. The low-key Mishra is said to have negotiated the alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP). And it was on his counsel that Mayawati vetoed the inclusion of Congress in the grand alliance. Both are chessboard moves that will alter the voting patterns of millions in Uttar Pradesh, with the capacity to mould the very shape of the 17th Lok Sabha one way or the other. Not just potentially game-changing strategic choices, but acts that can impact India’s political destiny way beyond their immediate circumstance of birth. And they emanated not entirely from a supremo’s instincts, nor the empty drums who rattle a lot on TV or Twitter, but a person largely in the shadows. Not Akbar, so to speak, but a silent Birbal. One who mostly speaks only off-stage.
It’s a whole array of roles and functions that they fill out. From number-crunchers to SWOT analysts, speechwriters to henchmen, fixers and Man Fridays and troubleshooters, OSDs and secretaries, mere factotums, or even full-blooded political animals who can read the winds and talk across party lines. In election season, the art of behind-the-scenes politics is perhaps more vital than the populist public rhetoric of leaders. The latter germinates in the backrooms, the real lab. This is where public manoeuvres are conceived and fine-tuned, this is where the hotlines buzz, where allies, potential allies and even enemies come calling. This backstage needs people who have a clear periscope to possible futures, and words flexible enough to realise them.