Nitish Kumar learns the Modi way of dealing with elections

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Facing the toughest election of his career, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is going all out to ensure Janata Dal (U)-RJD-Congress alliance’s victory in the Bihar Assembly polls.

People will get to see a bipolar contest between PM Narendra Modi, and Kumar, both of whom lose no chance to ridicule the other during the course of their campaigns. But what’s common between the two is their campaign strategy.

The Indian Political Action Committee, presently heading the campaign for Kumar, has done as much the same for Modi during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.  It was known then as Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG).

But there is a striking contrast between the campaign managers in the two elections. While it was the high-profile ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ and 3-D shows for Narendra Modi, it is more about foot soldiers and bicycles for Kumar.

The IPAC team started their campaign for Kumar in Bihar in March 2015, much ahead of the announcement of the poll dates.

The first thing that came handy were social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter. Through different Facebook pages and Twitter dedicated to Kumar, they set up a direct connect between Kumar and those Biharis who are active on the social media. The easy availability of smart phones in Bihar made their task a lot easier.

IIT Kanpur graduate Rishi Raj Singh heads the IPAC team and Prashant Kishor mentors it. They ensured people’s complaints reached bureaucrats directly—online version of Janata Durbar. Then they launched their first major on-ground campaign for Kumar, ‘Har Ghar Dastak’. The target of this programme was to reach out to one crore households.

The war of words between Nitish and Modi over the DNA remark during a rally in Bihar provided further ammo to the IPAC managers—they launched a scathing ‘Shabd Wapsi’ campaign against Modi. .

A war room of sorts was created in Patna where 50 lakh DNA samples (nails and hair) of people from Bihar were collected and sent to Modi’s official residence in Delhi.

The IPAC has come up with bicycles painted yellow and carry a board with the seven big promises made by Kumar as his next mission. Each constituency has 30 branded bicycles and two Jan Bhagidari Raths.

But IPAC members feel their strength are the foot soldiers, who they claim are going to every household, even in the state’s interiors and distributing a hand written letter by Kumar and a calendar.

Also, Kumar appeals to the reader letter to vote for the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan. The pocket-sized calendar opens up to become a leaflet with all of Kaumar’s promises made during the run up to the polls.

IPAC will also come up with plans for polling and counting days. “We will form a war-room to monitor each polling booth. There will be booth committees, polling agents, and also grievance redressal mechanism to ensure fair polling,” said Rishi Raj Singh.

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