Regular-article-logo Thursday, 13 June 2024

He thought, they did not

Meet Lalu's brain booster

Amit Bhelari Published 23.11.15, 12:00 AM


RJD strategist Sanjay Yadav (left) with Tejaswi after addressing the party’s youth conference at the Rajgir International Convention Centre in June last year. Telegraph picture

If Nitish Kumar had Prashant Kishor in the battle for Bihar, Lalu Prasad had Sanjay Yadav.

As poll strategist, Kishor crafted the campaign that re-crowned Nitish. Similarly, Sanjay was the brain behind many of the strategies that catapulted the RJD into pole position as the largest party in the Bihar Assembly.

It can be argued that Sanjay's job was tougher than Kishor's. After all, the chief minister enjoyed near-zero anti-incumbency. The RJD's image, in contrast, had taken a big hit after the fodder scam blew up in its face, taking down party supremo Lalu.

Four years ago Sanjay (32), who like Kishor maintains a low profile and works away from the spotlight, took up the challenge of reviving the RJD. In the run-up to the elections, Sanjay - who has an MSc in computer science from Bhopal University and an MBA from Indraprastha University-Delhi - burnt the midnight oil to plan the strategy for the party right from data collection to handling social media.

And it was Sanjay, who hails from Nangal Sirohi village of Mahendragarh in Haryana and who is a close of friend of deputy chief minister Tejaswi from his cricket playing days, who spotted opportunity in RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat's words.

"I was scanning news on portals and on September 21, I read about Bhagwat's comment on reservation," Sanjay told The Telegraph.

Bhagwat had pitched for a review of the reservation policy, contending it has been used for political ends, and suggested setting up of an apolitical committee to examine who needs quota and for how long.

"It struck me," Sanjay said. "I took a printout of the news and rushed to Lalu ji. I read out the news to him. Being a seasoned politician, Laluji commented on Bhagwat's remark and asked me to post it on his Twitter handle. Since then, Lalu ji continuously used Bhagwat's remark to attack the BJP-led NDA. Bhagwat's comment was a trump card for the RJD."

Soon after Bhagwat's comment, Lalu had tweeted: " Tum aarakshan khatam karne ki kahte ho. Hum isse abaadi ke anupaat mein badhayenge. Mai ka doodh piya hain to khatam karke dikhao, kiski kitni takat hain pata lag jayega" (You talk of ending reservations. We will increase it in proportion to the population. I dare you to go ahead and stop it, we shall see who is stronger).

Sanjay now stays at 10 Circular Road, home to two former chief ministers (Lalu and Rabri Devi), the serving deputy chief minister and the serving health minister (Tejaswi and Tej Pratap, respectively).

Before taking up the job with the RJD, Sanjay worked with three multinational companies between 2006 and 2010 in Delhi. And the man from Haryana took three years to understand the demographic, social and political equation of Bihar. Now, of course, he has data for every constituency on his fingertips.

Sanjay did not have the advantages of Nitish's strategist Prashant Kishor, who had people from IIMs and IITs on board.

"We had to manage with limited resources," Sanjay said. "My focus was to mobilise the youth, data evaluation, keeping track of the Opposition leaders and their comments in real-time and devising how to counter their remarks using social media. With the consent of Lalu ji I used to come up with slogans, posters, banners, cutouts and hoardings."

Sanjay's task was made even harder by a personal tragedy. His father Prabhati Lal, a retired army officer, died on July 26. Grief did not dilute Sanjay's focus,

Even after the Grand Alliance - and the RJD's - stunning victory, Sanjay's work is not over. He still looks after the party activities and is busy strategising the image-rebuilding process. He often shows news articles on his iPhone to Lalu to keep the RJD boss updated. On Friday, Sanjay accompanied Tejaswi in his car to the old secretariat for his first cabinet meeting.

The deputy chief minister did not shy away from giving Sanjay his due credit.

"He worked really hard for the party," Tejaswi said about Sanjay. "Though we had people working for him, Sanjay's role is extraordinary. He has good social and political understanding. His strategy helped us become the single largest party in the Grand Alliance. Despite not being a professional like Prashant Kishor, his contribution to the party is immense. He was the one who convinced my father to use social media so that Lalu ji's message could reach the maximum number of people."

Sanjay is married to Sunishtha Yadav and they have a seven-month-old daughter.

"Tejaswi ji named my daughter Miraya, which means prosperity," said Sanjay.

RJD chief meet

Lalu has called a meeting of all the newly elected MLAs, MLCs, MPs, former MLAs, former MLCs and former MPs at the party office on November 24 at 1pm. RJD spokesperson Chitranjan Gagan said the meeting has been called to start the membership drive and also to discuss the organisational election of the party.

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