Prime Minister Narendra Modi was no doubt the BJP’s face in the Bihar battle, but its micro management lay with BJP president Amit Shah and the IT cell in the Prime Minister’s Office, with dedicated party activists promised rewards ranging from cows to money.
After Modi’s election guru for the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Prashant Kishor, joined the opposition’s camp, the PMO’s IT cell became part of the strategy making in the BJP’s war room in Patna. The task was mammoth: ensure the first ever victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance in Bihar against the Grand Alliance — to prove that the loss of Delhi to the AAP in February was a fluke.
The IT team would contact party cadres across the state through audio conference. They were told to present their views without any hesitation.
“At a time 8-10 cadres from different areas were connected. They were told why this election was important for the BJP. An emotional chord with them was established,” a senior BJP leader stated.
“During the session, a question-answer session was a must. The cadres could ask any question. And they had to be satisfied,” he added.
Some activists did underline that the BJP should have put up a chief ministerial candidate to counter Chief Minister and JD-U leader Nitish Kumar. The team would explain why this was not done.
The war room was managed by BJP veterans Anant Kumar, Dharmendra Pradhan, Bhupendra Yadav and Anil Jain, who reported to Shah, who in turn was in regular touch with Modi.
Leaders and cadres from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Delhi and other states were told to mobilize party members in Bihar and overcome their discontent.
To sulking BJP activists, these leaders would say: “Look, we are from other states but working hard for a victory in Bihar. But you are not with us.”
The BJP’s Pravasi Cell was provided data and transport and more and directed to go to areas where there was visible anger among cadres — and areas where the party was not drawing enough support.
An NRI cell motivated young voters to work and vote for the party. They were armed with contact details of influential residents in villages to influence them to vote for the BJP.
Bihari NRIs have set up a Bihar Society, registered in the US. Its leaders recently met Modi during his US visit.
These NRIs were encouraged to tell Bihari youths on phone from the West: “Why did we migrate from Bihar? Look at NRI Gujaratis. They invest in their state as there is infrastructure and an environment for investment. This will be possible in Bihar only when the BJP forms a government in Bihar.”
They created a group on WhatsApp called India for Developed Bihar.
Some BJP leaders and confidants of Modi and Shah began working at the micro level in Bihar from July.
One such MP from Gujarat was given the responsibility of 10 Bihar districts where the BJP had not done well in previous eletions.
He would go from one constituency to another, addressing and motivating party activists.
“Your first target is to increase the vote percentage at the booth level,” the activists were told. “If this goes up by 5 percent and the BJP wins even by a single vote, you will be rewarded.”
The promised rewards included Rs.50,000 or cows bought through an NGO on terms and conditions to form a cooperative.
The MP began this experiment in Nalanda, the home turf of Nitish Kumar.
(With agency inputs)