Patna: Who turned the Bihar election into a Nitish Kumar versus Narendra Modi fight? While many in political circles believe that the Bihar chief minister virtually consigned his Grand Alliance to doom by pitching it as a personality battle, JD(U)’s key strategist Prashant Kishor says this is exactly how they wanted the elections to be. This, he maintains, was a deliberate strategy to consolidate votes that did not go to the BJP in the 2014 General Elections, but were scattered among secular parties, ultimately benefiting none.
“As per the Lok Sabha poll results, 60 percent voters voted against Modi even at the peak of his popularity. The Nitish versus Modi battle turned the incumbent chief minister into a rallying point for these voters. Now, they had a clear choice. In addition, a majority of people who had voted for the BJP were now disillusioned with the prime minister. They were looking for an option and we provided them with the alternative in Nitish,” Kishor, who designed the entire campaign course of the party, told Firstpost.
Asked why only Nitish was made the face of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance, he said Nitish is a “brand which is self-made, clean, does not carry the baggage of dynastic politics and above all, has a proven record of governance. He is the only person who can match Modi in stature. Also, he can manage a coalition.”
He claimed they had managed to project him as a ‘dominant force’. “Till December last year, the JD(U) was appearing extremely weak against the BJP. Had the election been conducted at that time, it would have certainly been lost. But things changed drastically because of the aggressive campaigning of the party and projection of Nitish. And now, the result is before you,” he said
There was an assumption, he said, that though Nitish is a good chief minister and a man of development and good governance, he was not considered a people’s chief minister because he did not interact with people much. “This myth was broken by increasing his public interaction with the help of campaign like ‘Har Ghar Dastak’,” he added.
The JD(U) focussed on “inter-personal” connect by rolling out bicycles to match the BJP’s chariots. Earlier, the BJP had pressed into service 160 “Parivartan Raths” (chariots for change) equipped with LED screens, video facility and audio gadgets to criss-cross the state and highlight the achievements of the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre.
As part of the last leg ‘door to door campaign’, 30 customised bicycles were given to party leaders and workers in each constituency. Every cyclist was tasked to visit 50 houses per day, deliver personalised letters carrying Nitish’s vision to every household and explain his achievements. While visiting families, every worker was asked to give a missed call to the party’s toll-free number to ensure that they are individually meeting the said number of families per day.
These yellow-coloured bicycles were mounted with a billboard with Nitish’s vision for the state written on it. The vision included youth empowerment, round the clock power supply to every household by 2016, reservation for women in jobs, 100 technical institutions, toilets, smooth roads and drinking water. The idea was to reach every household. As per the census of 2011, there are 20.61 million households in the state.
The campaigning was done in phases. The campaigners hit the ground first in the constituencies went for polls in the first phase on 12 October. The same set of bicycles was sent to the areas where polling was scheduled in the second, third, fourth and fifth phases.
Earlier, the party had rolled out 400 hi-tech trucks called Janbhagidari Manch as part of the Badh Chala Bihar 2025 campaign with the aim of collecting feedback on the development of the state directly from people. The JD(U) has also rolled out two raths in every constituency to hold at least 15 public meetings and video shows per day. “Our target is to cover 150 villages in each phase,” Kishor added.
Apart from ‘Vision Billboard’ and cycles, the party also launched a specially designed pocket calendar, which had mention of ‘seven points of developed Bihar’ on each of its fold. “Generally, people throw handbills without reading it. But the specially designed pocket calendar forced them read the seven points,” he added.
“We also managed to neutralise the possible repercussions of the Jitan Ram Manjhi factor over time. The prime minister stopped raising the issue after we responded by saying it was the BJP which raised a hue and cry when Manjhi was sworn in,” he said.