PATNA:Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has taken a leaf out of Naredra Modi’s innovation hi-tech election campaign that helped him become prime minister in 2014 after the NDA’s dramatic win. For the first time in Bihar elections, technology seems to be replacing muscle and money power. Kumar has realised that the profile of his state has changed dramatically in the last few years with increasing mobile and Internet connectivity, particularly among the youth who constitute the largest chunk of voters. The Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief also knows that the BJP will leave no stone unturned to woo them.
To counter the saffron party’s tech campaign in the run up to Assembly elections in Bihar Kumar is making a major makeover of his campaign strategy to connect with the electorate. Despite being a hardcore critic of Modi’s hi-tech campaign, Kumar has got the PM’s key campaign consultant Prashant Kishor, the brain behind Chai Pe Charcha, to connect with the masses. Kumar used to ridicule the same campaign last year by saying that “ye blower ki hawa hai (this is a breeze from a blower).”
Sources in the JD-U say that Kishor made a Powerpoint, Citizen’s Alliance, for Kumar’s campaign. He has given broad details on how to connect with the huge population of Non-Resident Biharis (NRBs), who are considered key opinion makers. He has also planned to introduce new campaigns like “Breakfast with Chief Minister” and interactive programmes like Samvad and Bihar Development Dialogues.
Kishor, a former UN health consultant, will be the key player in Kumar’s election war room. The chief minister is fighting one of his toughest political battles and does not want to take any chances after his humiliating defeat in the last Lok Sabha polls when his party won only two out of 40 parliamentary seats of the state.
In 2013, Kumar had started contributing to a blog of a national TV channel to articulate his vision and political opinion, particularly against his arch rival BJP and Modi. However, his last message on it was on November 22, 2013.
Knowing the importance of technology, Kumar relies heavily on his Private Secretary Chanchal Kumar, an IIT Kanpur alumnus, to keep him connected with his online followers. He has also taken to Twitter like many politicians, including Modi.
Kumar also knows how to use his well-oiled government machinery in election year. He has made Pratyay Amrit—his most trusted IAS officer—in charge of Information and Public Relation Department.
The state government has given a contract to a Delhi-based organisation headed by former IPS officer Uday Sahay for branding Bihar, especially via social media. This initiative was undertaken by Bihar Foundation that keeps in touch with NRBs. The agency will also market the key initiatives of the present government.
“There is no harm in reaching out to the people using technology,” says Niraj Kumar, JD-U spokesperson. He acknowledges that technology has changed the style of campaigning. “We need technology to fight the misinformation campaign of BJP. Nitish should focus more on addressing the problems of common people
instead on mere marketing. It would prove counterproductive to him,” says BJP leader and former Union Minister C P Thakur.
“A state like Bihar can’t be taken for granted by tech savvy market oriented consultants. Elections can’t be compared with selling goods in markets. In Assembly elections, local factors and social reality can’t be ignored,” says former Rajya Sabha member Shivanand Tiwary.