The Bihar Assembly Elections election came to a close on Sunday with the Grand Alliance winning two thirds of the seats and weakening BJP’s position in the state. While Chief Minister Nitesh Kumar of the JDU, Lalu Prasad of the LJP and Rahul Gandhi of the Congress rejoiced at the outcome of the election, many questions were directed towards the BJP led NDA regarding who should be held responsible for their poor performance.
With fingers being pointed at many among the BJP and its allies, question remains as to what went wrong with the high decibel campaign that the BJP had run. The campaign of the NDA had seen ad spends at around Rs.40-50 crore for the Bihar election, say media reports. The Grand Alliance campaign, on the other hand, was of a much lower decibel level on media, but was smartly executed to combat their opponents. Their ad spends are expected at around Rs.25-30 crore, said a media report.
High-decibel BJP marketing campaign fails
The BJP-led NDA had put a lot on the Bihar elections being one of the largest states in terms of seats for the Rajya Sabha. The marketing spends for the BJP was even higher than that spent on the ad campaigns in Haryana and Maharashtra State elections last year which was Rs.25 crore. While the BJP did well to win in both these two States, Bihar proved to be almost a repeat of what happed in the Delhi assembly elections.
The BJP marketing campaign was a highly aggressive campaign that ran across newspapers, radio, television and outdoor. The campaign efforts also included organising over 500 meetings in Bihar and PM Modi addressing around 25 large rallies in the last two months run up to the polling dates. The party also commissioned around 250 trucks which were attached with TV screens to air PM Modi’s speeches as well as campaign songs composed by the party. The BJP minister Manoj Twari had composed two Hindi songs for the campaign – Is Baar BJP, Ek Baar BJP and Jai Bihar, Jai Jai Bihar which were aired extensively on radio.
The BJP ad campaigns had slogans such as ‘BJP karegi pehla kaam, jungle raj pe poorna viram’ (the first work done by the BJP will be putting an end to the jungleraj) and ‘Apradh, bhrashtachar aur ahankar, kya is gathbandhan se badhega Bihar’ (crime, corruption and arrogance, can this alliance develop Bihar?). These slogans were seen across the print ads. On print ads the BJP is estimated to have spent Rs.20 crore which were across leading newspapers in Patna such as Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Hindustan and Prabhat Khabar. Apart from this it also ran some print ads on behalf of the Central government highlighting their ‘Special Bihar Package’ in the ads. This even prompted the State government run by JDU to release their own print ads claiming that there was nothing special about the ‘Special Package’.
Apart from this the BJP also ran an extensive TV campaign on Bhojpuri channels in the region. The TVC campaign ‘Chalo Chalo Modi Ka Saath’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekLZj4_rHUk) was also seen on certain music channels such as Mastiii which is popular in the region and even news channels such as ETV Bihar and Jharkhand.
The BJP also ran an extensive outdoor campaign which featured PM Modi and even Amit Shah. This was different from the only Modi outdoor ads which were seen during the general election.
The BJP also ran an extensive campaign on social media platforms which conducted a constituency-wise social media mapping of Bihar. This was a similar method they had used in the Lok Sabha elections which had been successful. The party was mainly focused on Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp. However, with poor internet penetration in Bihar challenges were faced with all the political parties using the digital medium.
Grand Alliance’s grass-root campaigning succeeds
The JDU-led Grand Alliance however countered this onslaught of high decibel campaigning by the BJP with their own campaigns such as ‘Bohot hua jumlo ka vaar, fir ek baar Nitesh Kumar’ (enough of the couplet war, another term for Nitish Kumar) and Jhaanse mein na aye, Nitish ko jitaye (don’t be deceived, vote for Nitish). With a much lesser campaigning budget than BJP the Grand Alliance campaign was mostly relied on grass root techniques such as door-to-door campaigning. In July Nitesh Kumar had launched the month long door-to-door campaign ‘Har Ghar Dastak’ (knock on every door). This seemed to have worked as the campaign reached out to over 10 million households. This was led a non-government organisation Citizens Alliance.
The JDU had also managed to rope in Prashant Kishor who had worked on the Narendra Modi’s campaign during the 2012 Gujarat elections and had also worked on the BJP campaign during the general elections last year. While he designed the door-to-door campaign, Kishor’s team also launched the ‘parcha pe charcha’ (discussion over pamphlets) campaign in which they sought feedback from people on the State government’s performance over the two terms. These two campaigns worked well to promote the work of Nitesh Kumar during his two terms.
While TV was seen as too expensive with the limited budget not much ad spends by the JDU and its partners were put on it. The alliance also saw a limited amount of spends on print too. However, the JDU and its allies decided to use the mediums of radio as well as outdoor extensively. Kishor had roped in composer Sneha Khanwalkar who had created songs for top films such as Gangs of Wasseypur and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye. The song created was called ‘Phir se Nitishe’ and was aired extensively on radio (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0ANGYr-100). Both the NDA as well as the Grand Alliance team ended up buying 50-100 radio spots a day during the elections.
The Grand Alliance also banked on social media platforms with Nitish Kumar finally coming onto social media and saw him answering thousands of questions from people. He extensively used Twitter to connect to people and also tweeted against the BJP when attacks were made. He also had hour-long question and answer session under ‘AskNitish’ which was on Facebook. Ally the Bihar Congress had also adopted an online strategy to boost their presence. The party had launched a mobile app called ‘BPCC’ and was designed to give information about their activities and get feedback.
Grass-root campaigning trumped negative campaigning
While the BJP led NDA took a more mainstream approach similar to what it did during the Lok Sabha elections, the JDU led Grand Alliance decided to go for a more grass root approach through its door-to-door campaigning. This was essential in maintaining Nitish Kumar’s clean image and established connect with the people of the state. Though the BJP high decibel campaign had worked very well in the Lok Sabha and even the Maharashtra and Haryana state elections last year, it however failed to deliver results on two elections the Delhi and now the Bihar assembly elections.
Post the results of the Bihar elections many media experts blamed the failure of the BJP campaign due to the negativity of the campaign against the opposition as opposed to portraying any message of positive development that the BJP would bring. This was seen in almost all of the creatives of the BJP campaign that concentrated on terming the Bihar government as jungle-raj and that if they would not vote BJP into power in Bihar the jungle-raj would continue. Some of the creatives also focused on the Nitish Kumar and Lulu Yadav turning from bitter enemies to friends and that they could not be trusted.