Digital outreach: BJP likely to launch Atmanirbhar Bihar, RJD takes to booth-level WhatsApp campaigns

The party on Saturday started conducting social media training workshops for nearly 1,090 mandal heads that saw the virtual participation of IT minister Ravishankar Prasad.

ANI
New Delhi: The BJP has avoided the use of terms like “ jungleraaj” or “Susashan” in all its seven digital capsules across social media platforms launched till now even as the RJD launched booth-level WhatsApp groups to highlight the failures of the Nitish Kumar government as the political parties tweak their digital campaign strategies ahead of the polls.

The BJP has preferred to focus on PM Narendra Modi government’s Covid-19 efforts in Bihar, updates on actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s controversial death, the Ram Temple, the Centre’s clearance of the Rs 15,000 crore worth infrastructure projects for the state, connecting the Patna ring road to eight national highways, an upcoming airport in Darbhanga and a National Institute of Technology in Bihta, among others.

The party on Saturday started conducting social media training workshops for nearly 1,090 mandal heads that saw the virtual participation of IT minister Ravishankar Prasad. The party is likely to launch its final digital campaign –– Atmanirbhar Bihar –– in the next few days. Having appointed a digital head for each of its 38 districts last week, the party is looking at expanding its digital teams to booth committees next week.


The BJP’s digital strategy started with the campaign, Harega Corona, Jitega Bihar in June, after which it launched two major campaigns –– ‘Farak Saaf hai’ and ‘Na Bhula hai bihar, Na Bhulega Bihar’ ––to remind people about the collapse of law and order during the RJD era, including abductions of professionals, brain drain, increase in crimes and economic ruin of the state before 2005.

When Covid-19 cases in Bihar declined, the party started aggressively promoting welfare schemes launched by the state and Centre in the past three years under the campaign –– Pragatisheel Bihar. It thereafter kickstarted ‘Sewa par tatpar’, ‘Bajpa nirantar’ and other campaigns focussed on relief work for floods. In the over 2,800 social media official posts made by the party till now, it is PM Modi who remains the prominent face, followed by BJP president Sanjay Jaiswal, deputy CM Sushil Modi, and then BJP president JP Nadda. JD(U) is mentioned only in the posts of two campaigns and Nitish Kumar’s pictures are not part of any of them.

Under attack from RJD on the high number of Covid-19 cases, Bihar is seeing a turnaround since August. Bihar Health Minister Mangal Pandey said Bihar’s recovery rate had risen to over 88% which was best in the country while 1.5 lakh tests, the highest in the country, were being done in Bihar daily. Daily test positivity rate has fallen below 1% and overall fatality rate at 0.5%.
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“RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav’s charge that the government wants to hold elections over dead bodies and that Bihar could rise to the third spot in Covid cases among states on September 1 stand falsified. We are still at the eighth position as on date. We will project our success in fight against Covid. Now we want to bring the narrative back to Covid-19 but the opposition doesn’t want to talk about it,” another senior state BJP leader said.

The Centre also plans to push central projects in the state before the model code of conduct comes into play with mega railway and road projects set to be announced next week.

“This will set the agenda that a JDU-BJP government in Bihar is good for the state when the BJP is power at the Centre,” a senior functionary at the Centre said. The BJP hopes that the foundation and levelling work of the Ram Temple would begin by the time of the Bihar polls as the layout has been approved and the monsoons are over.

Opposition Speak
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Meanwhile, the RJD has launched booth-level WhatsApp groups on the “broken promises of the Modi government on the Bihar package and flood rehabilitation, failing to declare Patna University a central university, and showing that most roads now being showcased as BJP-JD(U)’s development work were built during the UPA era”.

The RJD’s campaign focuses predominantly on the 2005-2008 period that it claims was the best period for Bihar with Lalu Prasad Yadav as railway minister and talks of MNREGA as the party's offering to the poor.
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“The real Atmanirbharta for Bihar was when Lalu Prasad Yadav as railway minister promoted the use of Kulhad, a product made in the state, or mandated the use of Khadi curtains in trains… For the past 15 years, the state has seen unending migration of its own people. What is the one big industry they have got in the past 15 years.. At least, Laluji got three factories for locomotives,” the party's national spokesperson Nawal Kishore said.

“Statistics of the NCRB confirm that criminal incidents have been increasing in Bihar. So, the narrative that the BJP is trying to build through its posts is fake,” Kishore said, adding that the BJP’s digital campaign was focussed on PM Modi thereby showing Nitish Kumar as the one responsible for the failures.

“But one cannot forget that even during 2008, Bihar got more relief for floods..even train travel in the affected parts was made free."

Despite all attempts online, the BJP won’t be able to push its narrative, he said, “because the anger against the ruling government was at its peak”.

However, according to political analyst Sajjan Kumar, associated with Peoples Pulse, a research organisation focusing on fieldwork-based political studies, the opposition in Bihar, particularly the RJD, has failed to capture the imagination of the people even of the non-Yadav OBCs or a section of the Dalit community and remains a beneficiary of the limited social support of Muslims and Yadavs, despite failings by the Centre and state.

For the BJP, this election is about asserting its own importance with Modi’s popularity and about preparing to consolidate the votes of non-Yadav OBC communities who, as of now, remain Nitish Kumar’s support base. Winning Bihar is also crucial for the BJP to win Bengal as the party has already lost Jharkhand, he added.

Nitish Kumar, he said, has carefully crafted former CM Karpuri Thakur's legacy of winning the trust of non Yadavs, a section of voters that Hindutva needs for its own organisational expansion and acceptance.

“The non-Yadav OBCs have shown their loyalty for Nitish because they believe that while upper castes had a notional loss during Lalu’s rule, it was they who faced the physical brunt of it. This is the section that sees a lot of value in the government’s welfare measures such as gas or electricity, and is crucial for the BJP. This is what makes Nitish Kumar critical in any alliance because he has the support of this critical mass. He is the curd that has to be mixed with milk if you want yoghurt..It is also clear from the defections of party leaders in the state, most of whom have joined the JD(U) or RJD. The BJP as of now doesn't have a leader with an image like Nitish's but it is preparing to assert itself in the future mostly with PM's popularity."
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