|(From top) A youth works on the computer in the JD(U) war room, workers busy planning in the Congress war room with a smiling Rahul Gandhi in the backdrop, RJD workers outside the party office — the RJD’s core committee usually meets at Lalu Prasad’s home — and BJP workers, busy on phones, check details. Pictures by Jai Prakash and Ranjeet Kumar Dey
Elections are fought not just in hinterland rallies where fiery speeches are made. Another war brews within the four walls of party offices, aptly called “war rooms” once every five years.
The war rooms, these days, are buzzing with activity.
Those selected to set the ball rolling are doing their best at poll management, while their leaders sweat it out across the length and breadth of the state.
Some are banking on the Internet and the social media, while others still trust traditional methods, leaving the tech-savvy tag for their bigwigs. Here’s looking at what’s going on inside the four walls of four parties in the state.
The picture of the mother and son — Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi — greets all as one enters a room at Sadaquat Ashram, the party’s headquarters in Bihar. Inside, four men are glued to two computer screens as they check incoming mail, and post updates on some websites.
There are Facebook pages belonging to the Bihar Pradesh Congress Comm-ittee, a page titled “Just Congress” and another called “Fekuji Kahin”.
“If state Congress president Ashok Choudhary or for that matter any party official wants to post a comment online, we do so after taking due permission from party leaders. Then, there are statements and comments coming in from the All India Congress Committee office. These we upload. We also keep tabs on what comments people post on the Facebook groups like Just Congress and Bihar Pradesh Congress Committee,” said Jaeya Mishr, general secretary of the BPCC and in-charge of the Congress’s war room.
The Fekuji Kahin Facebook page (fekukibaraat) is aimed at NaMo and his so-called “antics”.
This apart, the war room plays an important part in co-ordinating leaders’ rallies in different parts of the state.
“Congress candidates contesting in different constituencies are in touch with us. Each constituency that has a Congress candidate also has a party member appointed as co-ordinator. We are always in touch with the co-ordinator to help arrange rallies and road shows for the candidate,” Mishr said.
If the Congress’s war room appears quiet, the BJP’s is a picture of aggression.
Its media cell is buzzing with life. At least seven party workers were seen busy in an animated discussion.
News breaking on the television set in the room, be it the Supreme Court’s proposal on the cricket drama or a new lead on the missing Malaysian aircraft, does not seem to excite anybody one bit.
In one corner, a man sits and closely scans daily newspapers, jotting down points one after the other. “We need to check all dailies and carefully note down the comments, statements, etc of all politicians, mainly from the opposition parties. These are then forwarded to the party for our leaders to react through statements,” said Sanjay Choudhary, in-charge, BJP’s IT cell.
The party has also set up a call centre on Fraser Road from where the 543 constituencies are monitored. “We constantly track the NaMo Rath and the many public meetings being organised by local leaders and take feedback from them in terms of crowd and response. Around 1-1.30pm, people in the BJP’s media cell in Delhi hold a teleconferencing programme with those in the states. The media in-charges are then briefed about the topics they should raise at events and press conferences,” Choudhary said.
In another room at the BJP office, people were seen busy communicating through their computers, mobiles and landline phones. Hanging from a wall, a huge picture of the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, greets people. But everybody in this room is hard pressed for time, monitoring and briefing leaders who are out in the fields, attending rallies and public meetings. Nobody here has time to breathe or talk. “Work is on in full swing here,” said a BJP worker.
There are around 10 men in charge of the JD(U)’s war room. Their work, however, has little to do with social media. In fact, the foot soldiers here appeared helpless when asked about social media. “Nitishji has a Facebook account, yes, but it isn’t managed by us,” said one. Another team member said the party’s website is still in the works and will not be ready till after the elections.
Even so, the place is buzzing with activity. A few people were huddled in front of a computer, talking among themselves, while a young man closely studied some documents on the monitor. “We too are working hard. After approval from senior leaders, we plan campaign trips of party candidates and monitor their movements. Also, if senior leaders have some instructions or message for party workers, it is we who communicate it to them,” said Ravindra Kumar Singh, the party’s general secretary.
Their main job is to ensure rallies and public meetings in different parts of the district go off without any hitch.
Singh said: “We are also in touch with our district presidents and co-ordinators, making sure public meetings are going on fine and there are no teething issues. We also ensure the choppers used by our leaders land at the destination. We have GPS devices for the same. We look into every aspect of the rallies and meetings, right from crowd management to setting up of tents.”
Lalu Prasad’s “IT-YT kya hota hai? (What is this IT all about?)” looks like a statement from another era as one enters the party office. Despite his rustic charm and comfort level with Hinglish, there are 10 people at the party office, co-ordinating things, mostly on the Internet. The party’s core committee decides rallies and meetings, usually at 10 Circular Road. “Once things are decided, we hook on to the Internet and upload all information related to the programme on the party’s official website, www.rjd.co.in. People can always check the RJD’s programmes for the day and for the coming days online,” says Sanjay Yadav, originally from Delhi, who monitors the RJD’s IT cell.
The party also has a toll-free number. Sanjay said: “We have started a toll-free number (18002000022). Those who give a missed call to this number from their mobiles will get a text message giving all information related to the party’s meetings, rallies and messages of important leaders. We also upload pictures of party meetings taking place in different areas. There is a group in the team whose job is to co-ordinate rallies and see if everything is fine, specially the crowd management. We get lots of suggestions from Bihari NRIs and the same is uploaded on the website too.”