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'M&M' of Mahagatbandhan: How Duo In-charge of Rebutting BJP Used Virus, Migrant Issue to Advantage

File photo of Manoj Jha

File photo of Manoj Jha

The duo of Manoj Jha of the RJD and Madan Mohan Jha of the Congress through their almost daily media briefings kept the pressure up on the NDA while shielding the MGB against the barbs flown at them.

On way to the residence of Tejashwi Yadav early morning on counting day, Manoj Jha responded to queries from the media on the tight contest that exit polls have predicted between NDA and MGB: "Bihar neck-and-neck nahi karta. Bihar ek tarfa karta hai Bihar doesn't deliver neck-and-neck contests. It delivers a one-sided mandate)." Just how it has happened over the past one month of political campaign, it was RJD's Manoj Jha who communicated his party's line and gave the media its sound bytes for the day.

In fact, the duo of Manoj Jha of the RJD and Madan Mohan Jha of the Congress through their almost daily media briefings kept the pressure up on the NDA while shielding the MGB against the barbs flown at them. For instance, in a rally held in Saharsa before on November 3, Prime Minister Narenda Modi took on the opposition parties for not chanting "Bharat Mata ki Jai". In a press conference held on the same day, Manoj Jha not only responded to the charge but turned the issue around to unemployment, which has been RJD's poll plank and the deciding factor for many voters in these elections, as several exit polls have shown.

"You (PM) talked about 'Bharat Mata Ki Jibe'. Perhaps you don't know Bihar. Right from childhood, we would chant 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'. The mother who was lying dead on the Katihar station is also 'Bharat Mata'. Bharat Mata is also the one whose child is not getting a job. Bharat Mata is also the one whose children in the age group of 5-10 breathe their last owing to malnutrition. PM, 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' cannot be reduced only to an election slogan. Please ask a technical expert to create a machine to measure the passion among the people of Bihar and the Mahagathbandhan for 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'."

Similarly, right after BJP in its manifesto promised to provide 'free Covid vaccines' for the people of Bihar on returning to power, Jha led the charge against it calling it "cynical opportunism". Speaking to a journalist, he said, "If the NDA loses, will the people of Bihar have to pay for it? We are shocked by how such a serious issue is being politicized in the middle of a raging pandemic. This is cynical political opportunism at best and scaremongering at worst." On the Sushant Singh Rajput issue, on the state of migrant labourers, Jha kept up the pressure through repeated press interactions.

The effectiveness of MGB's communications perhaps gained also from the absence of press briefings and regular interactions that Nitish Kumar used to hold during political campaigns with the media in previous elections.

Congress' Bihar Pradesh Committee chief, Madan Mohan Jha, kept up the pressure on the NDA on issues such as the Munger firing incident when he demanded the dismissal of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Jha also, in an attempt to consolidate the anti-NDA vote, kept levelling the charge of Asaduddin Owaisi's "AIMIM colluding with the BJP". And while he was part of the team of coordination between the alliance partners, he also kept responding to national issues which BJP tried to steer the election campaign towards.

To the remark Prime Minister Modi made about the opposition being "obstructionist" when it came to deciding upon matters of national importance, such as abrogation of article 370, which gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status, Jha said Modi had tried, and failed in, doing something similar during his campaign in 2015, when Modi's popularity was at its peak. And kept pricking the NDA on the issue of Chirag Paswan's repeated attacks on JD(U). "Sarkar ke paksh main rahte hue bhi sarkar ke khilaf stand liya (He took a position against the government despite being with the government)."