While it was the coordinated efforts of the leadership as well as the cadres of Janata Dal United, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress that ensured Mahagathbandhan's superlative win in Bihar, there was also a small group behind Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that contributed considerably to the thumping victory.
We are talking about the Indian Political Action Committee (IPAC), the campaign team of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that reached out to the remotest possible voter projecting the face of the JDU leader who was seeking another term as the CM.
Bihari vs Bahari debate raged during the Bihar Assembly elections with Nitish Kumar using it to target the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. While Nitish used it to corner NDA and question if Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be the CM of Bihar if the alliance won, his campaign strategy was led by a team of youngsters, many of them alumni of prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT), who were from outside the state.
Here's a look at the how IPAC, led by a young team of technocrats and mentored by Prashant Kishor, made it work for Nitish Kumar.
While the opponent ran a cash-heavy campaign, relying heavily on television and print advertisements, the financial crunch of the JDU compelled the IPAC team to rely heavily on foot soldiers. These foot soldiers were local people, who identified with the idea of Nitish being the right choice of Bihar, and were employed to carry forward the message of the Chief Minister to the voters in the remotest regions.
According to IPAC members, these foot soldiers were their biggest assets. They went to every household, even in the farthest of villages and distributed handwritten letter by the Chief Minister and a calendar. Each constituency had as many as 25 foot soldiers who worked day in and day out to communicate the messages of the Chief Minister directly to the voter.
Nitish branded bicycles and Swabhiman Raths:
A yellow bicycle with a board carrying the seven promises made by the Bihar Chief Minister during poll campaign and pictures of Mahagathbandhan leaders was a common sight during the electioneering in Bihar.
Each constituency had at least 30 branded bicycles and two raths, which emerged as an important tool to campaign for the Bihar Chief Minister. The bicycles, which used to ply across all constituencies, carried all the promises made by the Chief Minister as his next mission.
Local foot soldiers were roped in to ride these bicycles in all the constituencies, even where the JDU was not in fray.
Parcha pe Charcha:
With the help of the foot soldiers, the IPAC distributed a letter among the voters that carried a personalised appeal by the Chief Minister, with his signature at the bottom of it.
The letter talks about how the developmental work done by Nitish is just the base, and that the JDU leader needs more time to do several "important" things.
Moreover, Nitish has also made a personalised appeal to each recipient of the letter to vote for the JDU-RJD-Congress Mahagathbandhan. It accompanied a pocket-sized calendar which opened up to become a leaflet with all the promises made by Nitish in the run up to the polls.
Apart from Nitish's promises, this letter carried a mobile number on which the voters were urged to give a missed call.
The Missed call:
Once the voter gave a missed call on the number given in the letter, he/she would receive a call back within minutes. That call would be from none other than Nitish Kumar. Yes, the recipient of the call would get an automated message in the voice of the Bihar Chief Minister, urging to cast the vote in favour of Mahagathbandhan.
Thousands of groups were formed on WhatsApp to reach out to the voters with the messenger mobile app. The groups, managed by a dedicated team, had more than one million members. Creatively designed and worded messages were circulated throughout the day and turned out to be a huge success.
"We could not add more members as managing more groups was becoming tough," a member of IPAC told IBNLive.
Har Ghar Dastak:
The target of this campaign was to reach out to at least one crore households. The message was simple – ‘1 Karyakarta 10 dastak, 1 sandesh har ghar tak'. Volunteers went from door to door to communicate the message of Nitish for the voters.
IPAC member Diggaj Mogra, engineer by education, told IBNLive, "We took to our online platforms to initiate work on this. We made online versions of posters and posted them on social media. On the basis of the feedback we got from people, we made online selection and validation of the collaterals.
"We picked up the slogans that got positive feedback, such as 'Aage badhta rahe Bihar, phir ek baar Nitish Kumar (Bihar marches forward, once again Nitish Kumar)' and 'Jhaanse mein na aayenge, Nitishe ko jeetayenge (We won't fall for false promises, will ensure Nitish wins)'," he added.
The first poster of Nitish Kumar, with three kids on a yellow canvas, was installed first at the Income Tax roundabout in Patna. In fact, all their first posters were put at this crossing itself.