Bihar Polls CM Nitish Kumar champions people centric campaignsBy Shivam Setu via Wikimedia Commons
Voices Opinion Tuesday, September 29, 2015 - 08:56

By Payal Kamat

Politics, it is said, is all about being connected to the ground, of being connected to the people – the bhagyavidhatas. When it comes to political commentary, to an extent, the same holds true. One should have a strong ground-connect so that there is no scope for sweeping judgments or half baked analysis, something that this article offers.

The author claims to have certain knowledge of whether the campaigns of the sitting CM and CM candidate Nitish Kumar have worked or failed. Interestingly, there has been no data or evidence to support the argument. In fact, the reality is quite different.

To start with, the campaigns of CM Nitish Kumar work on one principle - ground level connect and interactions which have value much beyond superficial slogans and one-liners.

JD(U)’s Parcha pe Charcha is an initiative informing people about the  work done by the Nitish Government. A four page pamphlet, it explained in detail on the work done by the JDU Government in the fields of law and order, governance, women empowerment, roads, power, etc. More importantly, it sought feedback on issues affecting the everyday lives of the citizens of Bihar from across the state, thus connecting the party and government to its people at a more substantial level.

Har Ghar Dastak is again a volunteer driven campaign of the JD(U), and takes the message of CM Nitish Kumar’s government to the people. With the tagline, ek karyakarta 10 dastak, ek sandesh har ghar tak, the campaign is one of the biggest volunteer driven people connect programs conducted this assembly elections. Karyakartas who have visited more than 500 homes are awarded the star karyakarta title, thus keeping the tempo of the campaign high.

The Swabhimaan campaign, also called the ‘Bihari DNA’ campaign by the author, has little to do with the Gujrati asmita narrative. A fitting reply to PM Modi’s DNA attack against a democratically elected representative of the state and to that effect the entire state, the campaign is also an assertion of Bihari selfhood. The campaign has generated great enthusiasm with already more than 20 lac samples of hair and nails being submitted by people across the state, thus making the point that attacking the DNA of Bihar, is attacking its self respect. These samples are being sent to PM Modi in batches

CM Nitish Kumar’s initiative, Ask Nitish on Twitter draws about 600+ questions on a weekly basis, and is one of the few two way communication campaigns initiated and further sustained by any CM in India. Unlike the PM’s Mann ki Baat, which is a monologue, Ask Nitish provides answers to the questions in detail and with humility.  Just like the CM’s famous janata durbar, #AskNitish has led to the resolution of concerns raised by many citizens. Not just that, the campaign has also focused on real time interviews with the media on Twitter – thus setting the agenda and narrative for the elections.

Coming to the question of special package vs. special status, the demand for special status for Bihar has been well documented in the past. Even recently, the CM wrote an assertive piece on why Bihar deserves the special status category.  The so called, much hyped special package mentioned by the author was in fact dissected and debunked, and the reality of the package stands exposed by the CM citing specific data evidence long ago (refer here). Thus, it was revealed only 13.6 per cent of the ‘special package’ promised by PM Modi has any real incremental value.

In comparison, Nitish Nishchay is not a ‘special package’ but a policy initiative, and a personal commitment by the CM for the state of Bihar in order to facilitate the next phase of development; the CM aims to effect inclusive growth by focusing on issues that aim at improving the quality of life for each and every individual in Bihar.   Based on extensive feedback sought during to CM’s participatory governance programs and rigorous research – Nitish Nishchay has the outlay in place and the revenue to fund the same has also been taken in to account.  Indeed, as Prof Amartya Sen puts it, economic growth requires active public policies to ensure that the fruits of development are widely shared and that it trickles down the last person providing them with basic needs. Nitish Nishchay aims to do exactly that.

There is no doubt that CM Nitish Kumar is still the most favored candidate for CM in Bihar and none in the opposition can match him. Perhaps this is the reason why the PM of the country is BJP’s chief campaigner for a state election, yet again. 

Post its split with the BJP, the JDU government headed by CM Nitish Kumar has been supported by Lalu Yadav’s RJD in the Bihar assembly, since then (two years) the government has been running smoothly. The CM has successfully implemented his agenda of “Development with Justice”, with absolutely no hiccups (for data specific evidence, see here)

The campaign is not over yet. The days ahead will see many more interesting campaigns and firsts by CM Nitish Kumar. If only arm chair analysts took notice.

Payal Kamat is a political communications professional and is currently a member of CM Nitish Kumar’s campaign team at I-PAC.