Bihar 2015 Assembly Election Results: A historical Perspective

December 15, 2015

By Gunjan Arya

The results of Bihar Assembly elections 2015 have instigated debates all across the political spectrum. There is a great deal of enthusiasm to understand the dynamics behind this highly contested election which led to the humiliating defeat of the fascist forces. This rejuvenated interest in the India’s poorest state, calls for a discussion on the roots of injustice, social relations and political formations which characterize the state. It requires a comparative analysis of the present with the past and to look beyond the numbers and wins and losses.

The roots of Caste Politics

A careful reading of the history of Bihar tells us that its immense natural wealth which is credited to be the root of prosperity for the Indian sub-continent for most part of the history has proved to be a curse for its own people in the medieval and the modern times. Even before the arrival of British colonizers, Bihar was being used as an internal colony by all the medieval empires including the Mughals. Localized and fragmented feudalism had been a characteristic of Bihar and it was well exploited by the British to spread its Empire all over the world. Whether it was the harvest of cash crops like Indigo and Opium, or the extraction of saltpeter from saline fields of north Bihar, or the plundering of coal and other minerals, all contributed immensely in building the British empire. While residual benefits of the trade were reaped by the Gujarati, Parsi or Marwari seths, the Bihari zamindars remained content with rights of revenue collection from the tenants. The zamindars in general and the Bihari zamindars in particular have been described by historians as ‘ignorant idlers, slothful, devoid of education and abilities’. This created growing indebtedness of the zamindars which in turn unleashed tyranny on the peasants.

The resultant agrarian distress found expression in peasant uprisings in Bihar a few decades ahead of the transfer of power in 1947.  It was the result of the peasant movements pioneered by Swami Sahajanad Saraswati and carried over by various mass organizations that Bihar became the first state to abolish Zamindari, even though its enactment was delayed by several years in the face of the political pressure of the zamindars in the Congress. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was one of the most vocal leaders who openly sided with the zamindars. The delay in enactment of the bill gave enough time for the zamindars to do the benami transactions and make bill ineffective in reality. However, there were some rich and middle peasants who got benefited. In the caste dominated society, this created the initial dynamics in caste alliances in the post-colonial political spectrum of Bihar. While the upper caste – Bhumihar, Rajput, Brahman and Kayasthas (Lala) continued to rule in subsequent Congress governments until 1990 (barring brief interludes in 60s and 70s), the upper backward castes of Kurmi, Koeris and Yadavs organized their struggles of economic and political assertion. The Dalits and Musilms continued to support congress in the electoral politics, while inventing new representations to their day-to-day struggles.

The rise of upper backward castes

It is a legacy of Indian politics that almost any unrest or mass movement is co-opted by the ruling elite in such a fashion that it eventually changes the character of the mass movement in favor of the ruling class. In the true brahminical tradition, as the Brahmins were able to continue their expansion by appropriating ritual practices of the tribals or Dravidians, Gandhi followed the same path in colonial times. In the post-colonial times, it was Jai Prakash Narayan who stole the spring thunder of the Naxalbari to build his “total revolution” which was only little more than a rhetoric. However, what JP movement did achieve was to disrupt the decades long Congress rule both at the center and at the states. But, more than anything else, the biggest gain of the JP movement was to change the caste equation of the ruling class in Bihar as well as the adjoining state of UP, once and forever. Bihar saw the rise of the rustic son of the soil – Lalu Prasad Yadav, who would de-elitisize the government and the politics in Bihar for the coming decades. Around the same time BJP, riding on the horses of Ram Mandir agitation started to make its presence in political arena.

Clearly, the political base of Congress, at least in Bihar, was shifting towards BJP, which ultimately meant that Congress was left baseless in Bihar. Lalu took the communal polarization of BJP to his advantage and created the formidable MY samikaran (Muslim-Yadav alliance) which got stuck like a bone in the throat of BJP ‘s prospects in Bihar. The Yadavs, mostly engaged in cattle-raising and milk-selling have faced gross injustices at the hand of the upper castes due to the daily exchanges based on the nature of their work. With around 14% Yadav population combined with 17% Muslim population, it did stop the BJP in its tracks for almost 15 years. At the same time, the dominance of Yadavs in all the areas of political economy, created dissatisfaction in another faction of the upper backward caste – the Kurmis.

The political opportunism of Nitish Kumar

The Kurmi population – who got the maximum benefits from the zamindari abolition – were numerically far less (3.5%), but historically more prosperous than the Yadavs. They comprise mostly of landed cultivators. In the process of Sanskritisation, the Kurmis asserted the claim to Kshatriya status in the Varna system. Despite that, they were never politically embraced by the upper castes. In the post-mandal political amalgamation, the Kurmis had to rally behind the Yadavs in order to consolidate its political presence. But, the growing dissatisfaction within the Kurmi leadership because of the Yadav dominance resulted in an inevitable fissure. On Feb 12, 1994 Nitish Kumar formally identified himself as the leaders of the Kurmis by addressing the Kurmi Chetana Maha Rally at Gandhi Maidan in Patna. In the same year Nitish broke away from Janata Dal and formed the Samta Party under the leadership of George Fernandes with the mass base of Kurmis.

The Samta Party also banked on the support from Koeris who are also cultivators specialized in growing vegetables but less prosperous than Kurmis. The Samta Party which later merged with JD(U) in 2003, was also successful in getting the support of the EBCs who were most distressed by Yadav dominated politics of the RJD. The upper caste dominated BJP utilized this rift between Yadavs and Kurmis and piggy backed on Nitish to come to power with the JD(U)-NDA alliance in 2005. Nitish’s opportunism was well exposed when he openly sided with Ranvir Sena – the dreaded upper caste (Bhumihar) militia who were responsible for a series of massacres of dalits in 1990s to early 2000s.

More than a gesture to appease the upper caste, it was the political calculation that a strong upper caste will keep the Yadavs at bay, was the motive behind Nitish’s patronage to Ranvir Sena. Soon after coming to power he dismantled the Amir Das commission which was setup by the Rabri Devi government to bring the perpetrators of these massacres to justice. The JD(U)-NDA combine rose on the claims of sushasan (good governance) as opposed to the “Jungle Raj” of Lalu Yadav and won the assembly elections for the second term in 2010. This period also saw the rise of fascist Hindutva forces all over India triggered by the state-sponsored genocide of Muslims in Gujarat (2002) presided by the then chief minister of the state – Narendra Modi.

The reasons for JD(U)-NDA break up

The authoritarian traits of Modi and his proven track record in engineering communal polarization prompted RSS to flush out old leadership of BJP – L.K. Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha, et al – and elevate Narendra Modi to chair the BJP’s central campaign committee for 2014 general elections. The rise of authoritarian leadership in JD(U)’s ally created existential threats for the Kurmi leadership in the JD(U) in Bihar. Nitish Kumar tried to resist this change in BJP leadership by futile reminders of secular ethics. Nitish’s rhetoric of secularism became a subject of mockery given his 17 years of alliance with the communal BJP.

It would be untrue to say that RSS was not scared of breaking the BJP’s alliance with JD(U) in the fear of losing its hard earned ground in Bihar after an interlude of 15 years. But even RSS could not resist the huge corporate backing for Modi and tremendous pressure from the corporate owned media houses. Ultimately, Modi was declared the prime ministerial candidate for BJP and eventually Nitish broke the alliance.

There is more than one factor on why Modi became a threat to the survival of Kurmi leadership in JD(U). Firstly, the weak leadership of BJP in Bihar and at the center provided JD(U) the leverage to run the show on its own terms. Secondly, even though RJD was still having a decent support of Muslims, Nitish Kumar was able carve out the support of Pasmanda (lower caste) Muslims – under the leadership of Ali Anwar Ansari, in his support. This is a critical point, as Muslims constitute 17% of the population and of the total 41 communities of Muslims, 37 are listed as backward (Pasmandas) and of these 28 were listed by Nitish’s government as EBCs. A few of those 28 still demand inclusion in SCs. Therefore, Nitish’s fear of losing his growing support base in Muslims was intensified with the advent of Modi. Thirdly, it was a choice of losing ground after taking the blame of advancing the fascist agenda of the BJP or losing it while being politically loyal to the support base. Only time could prove that despite all his opportunism, Nitish did have an enviable political foresight.

The 2014 Lok Shabha Elections

Political analysts have credited the BJPs clean sweep of 2014 general elections – apart from the strong negative wave against 10 years of Congress rule – to the young voters, esp. those who voted for the first time. This phenomenon might be true in rest of India, where the elitist civil society formations against corruption and poor performance of Congress in terms of economic growth might have helped the BJP. But, in the caste dominated Hindi heartlands of U.P. and Bihar it does not seem to be true.

In Bihar, JD(U) was literally wiped out with only 2 seats out of the total 40, whereas RJD and LJP (of Ram Vilas Paswan, in alliance with NDA) got 4 and 6 seats respectively. The BJP for the first time in Bihar came out as the single largest party by winning 22 seats with a total vote share of 29.4%. The upper-caste dominated corporate media saw this as a vote for development and defeat of caste politics. If they could see the effort BJP has put to arrive at the golden conglomerate of castes they would know that, even though the mandate of Bihari voters was to see a change at the center, the caste politics was at its play at the grassroots.

By bringing together Paswan’s LJP and Upendra Kushwaha’s RLSP, the BJP did receive easy access to Dalit and OBC votes. Moreover, Upendra Kushwaha’s coming from the Koeri caste, was also able to cut across the Kurmi-Koeri votes of JD(U). So, as Lalu Yadav in his typical style, used to refer Paswan as mausam vaigyanik (weather forecaster), caste based political opportunism was in full swing. As was evident from the results the worst victim of this revised caste equation was JD(U) which lost the upper caste votes and major share of the Kurmi-Koeiri votes as well, in addition to his known inaccessibility to Yadav and upper-caste Muslim votes.

The formation of Mahagathbandhan (MGB) and the response of RSS/BJP

Without getting into the details of stepping down of Nitish Kumar from Chief Ministerial chair and the Jeetan Ram Manjhi embarrassment, what is really important to analyze is the change in political dynamics triggered by coming together of Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar – the two giants of backward caste politics. The desperation and anxiety of the upper caste, followed by the formation of MGB, was reflected in the sudden surge of activity in the RSS camps. This became explicit with the campaigns of Modi and his lieutenant, Amit Shah in Bihar. However, much before that, the RSS cadres became active right after the JD(U)-NDA alliance broke.

The mastermind of Gujarat pogrom, Amit Shah, who was expelled from Gujarat by Supreme Court on the serious charges of influencing the trials related to Gujarat riots, was made the party president of BJP in July of 2014, barely a month after the break-up of JD(U)-NDA alliance. One of his first assignments was to polarize the voters in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh, a part of the political propaganda for 2014 general elections. It should be noted that UP has the highest number of seats in Lok Shabha – 80 out of the total 545, almost double than Maharashtra which is having the second highest number. Shah accomplished his tasks successfully by instigating widespread riots in the politically critical Muzaffarnagar area in which 62 deaths were reported (40 Muslims and 20 Hindus) and over 50,000 displaced.

The “Gujarat model” was well implemented in UP and it resulted in the bumper harvest of 71 out of 80 seats in UP for the BJP, which combined with the Bihar results (reasons explained in the above section) hugely contributed to BJP’s clean sweep in 2014 general elections. The subsequent wins in the assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Jharkhand established the Modi-Shah duo as the total authority in BJP. But, Shah did realize that over the past 25 years Bihar has undergone enough churning and shaking and so it would not be easy to apply the “Gujarat model” of Hindu-Muslim polarization, especially after it is left with only the upper caste support base after the formation of MGB.

The upper-caste dominated corporate media acted as Modi’s vanguard and started the debate on vikas v/s jati (“development” v/s “caste”). For the upper caste, it was the return of “Jungle Raj” in Bihar. Meanwhile, Amit Shah with his experience limited only to communal politics took on the herculean task of fixing the caste equation in the favor of BJP. With LJP already with BJP, it was also successful in defecting Jeetan Ram Manjhi, the mahadalit leader from JD(U) and making his newly formed party HAM as its ally. So, ultimately, with Amit Shah’s microscopic worldview, the BJP comfortably assumed to have gained all of dalit support, which is 16% of the total population.

The caste equation that BJP was trying to get at was a direct lift-up from Mayawati’s “social engineering” which she successfully demonstrated in 2007 UP assembly elections. Only this time the order was reversed – while Mayawati brought in the upper castes with a Dalit support base, BJP in Bihar tried to bring in the Dalits with an exclusive upper-caste support base. In an attempt to fill the huge gap of OBCs, BJP fielded Yadav candidates very strategically while prominent Yadav leaders like Ramkirpal Yadav (formerly with RJD) and Nand Kishore Yadav (formerly with JD(U)) were encouraged to defect.

So, one of the most important changes which the formation of MGB brought in Bihar politics was the controlled erosion of upper caste leadership engineered by Amit Shah, which is suggested to have brought some resentment within RSS. Shah was micromanaging the whole campaign with the help of RSS cadres while keeping the RSS and BJP leadership out of it. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement recommending review of caste based reservations came as whip on Amit Shah’s attempts at re-drawing caste configuration of the party leadership in Bihar without seeking RSS’s approval. The contradiction in the caste equation which BJP was trying to arrive at and the RSS’s brahminical ideology was well exposed by Lalu Yadav as he started reading passages from RSS’s guru Golwarkar’s book Bunch of Thoughts in which the anti-dalit and anti-Muslim ideology of the RSS is well documented. Lalu openly challenged Modi and Shah to burn this book if they do not align with this ideology.

Role of upper caste dominated Corporate Media

In their desperate attempts, the upper caste dominated corporate media projected a clear majority for BJP alliance in almost all the exit polls. Marching forward as the flag bearer of the neo-liberal agenda, they tried their best to down-play the caste question and project “development” as the winning force. Whole through the elections, all the news channels carried on the caste v/s “development” debate with the basic assumption that caste politics and “development” are antagonistic to each other.

The way they looked at the vote shares of 2014 general elections is also dubious. In 2014, the BJP+LJP combine got 29.4+6.4% of the total votes while JD(U), RJD and Congress got 15.8%, 20.1% and 8.4% respectively. Their convenient assumption was that vote transfer within the MGB will not be easy because of the “Jungle Raj” legacy of RJD, so again in the name of “development” they completely disregarded the vital statistics and did their best to provide constant fuel supply to BJP’s campaigns. When they found convenient, they took help of caste to prove their results right. Jeetan Ram Manjhi, according to them was the game changer. Their prediction of BJP gaining mahadalit votes with the help of Manjhi led HAM party, completely disregarded the series of massacres perpetrated by Ranvir Sena in the 1900s and early 2000s in Central Bihar on either side of the Sone river, which is the heartland of mahadalits.

The clear rejection of the issues of social justice, which is a characteristic of Indian media, was at constant display during the Bihar elections. NDTV’s (Hindi) Ravish Kumar was probably the only TV journalist to have brought some compassion to his commentaries, debates and reporting. His prime time series “Ye Jo Mera Bihar Hai”, with its own limitations, was a sincere and solicitous attempt to present the social fabric of the evolving Bihar, which has always been treated with a lot of apathy and even contempt in the Indian News channels.

The communal agenda and the Holy Cow

The mob lynching of the Muslim family in Dadri in western UP, about 40 KMs from New Delhi, on the issue of eating beef, might be a shocking incident for the people unaware of the Indian realities, but this was just an offshoot of the kind of terror and hostility through which Muslims and Dalits go through in their everyday life. The callous simplification of making it an issue of “beef eating” by the upper caste dominated corporate media, was only intended to enable the RSS to appropriate political capital out of it. But, in their well planned move, the Shah-Modi combine forgot that they are dealing with a different animal in Bihar.

Their vicious and cheap tricks may have served them well in Gujarat, UP, and other states, in reaping electoral gains, but the dynamics are quite different in Bihar. The memory of the 1989 Bhagalpur riots, instigated by the BJP-VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) workers during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, is still fresh in the minds of the people. Over 1000 people (900 Muslims) were killed and around 50,000 displaced. The Congress government at the center and the state, amidst pressure of the ruling upper caste did nothing to control it. In fact Rajiv Gandhi even overruled the transfer of the superintendent of police K S Dwivedi (a Brahmin by caste) who had a clear role in providing patronage to the perpetrators. While BJP got some petty gains in the upper-caste strongholds due to this polarization, Congress lost its ground in Bihar forever.

It is interesting to note that when Lalu Yadav came to power in 1990 riding on the M-Y (Mulsim-Yadav) wave, he did little to bring the perpetrators to justice as it is believed by the survivors that many of the rioters who led the mob belonged to the Yadav caste. So, the success of Lalu’s M-Y alliance in 1990 assembly election can be credited to some sort of fear factor in Muslim voters. But, this time things were quite different, as the Muslims had three options to choose without getting their votes divided. This worked really well in the favor of the MGB. Another issue in this election was the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. Lalu warned the Muslims that if BJP comes to power they would harass the Muslims in the seemanchal (northeastern) region of Bihar in the name of illegal immigration thorough the porous border with Bangladesh.

Who won, who lost and beyond

Tensions ran high on November 8, as the counting started for one of the most crucial elections in Indian history. In the initial hours due to some major goof-ups, all the news channels showed BJP leading on almost 120 seats. The political analysts and psephologists were quick to declare BJP getting a clear majority and forming a government. It was declared as the victory of “development” over caste. Outside the BJP headquarters in Patna, the BJP workers smeared with gulaal on the cheeks started bursting crackers, blowing shankh and chanting har-har-Modi. But, much to the dismay of the upper caste dominated corporate media, they had to roll back their numbers and bite their own words in a span of an hour or so. They owe a written apology to the BJP workers who had to wash off the gulal from their faces and run away from the spot. If there was one person in the newsrooms who was smiling that day, it was Yogendra Yadav, who had predicted a clear majority for the MGB.

At last, the results were out: RJD – 80, JD(U) – 71, Congress – 27, BJP – 53, LJP – 2, RLSP – 2, HAM – 1, CPI-ML (Liberation) – 3 and IND – 4. Nitish said “ye bihar ke swabhimaan ki jeet hai” (“this is a victory of Bihar’s self-respect”). Lalu repeated what he said all along, “bihar se BJP ka sukhda saaf ho gaya hai… yahaan to koi ladaiye nahin tha, ye election to pahle se hi jeeta hua tha… asli ladaai to ab hastinapur mein hai” (“BJP has been wiped off from Bihar… there was no fight in Bihar… this battle was already won… the real battle, now, is in Hastinapur).

The average voter turnout in this election, as per the data published by Election Commission of India, was 56.8% which, though not as good as it used to be in the Lalu-Rabri era, is still better than 2010 turnout out of 53%. The women outnumbered men in terms of turnout, a trend which started since 2010 assembly elections. It was speculated by the political analysts that higher voter women turnout would go in the favor of Nitish Kumar because of his welfare schemes for women, especially for the young women in economically weaker sections. However, the representation of women is still ignominious. JD (U) which claimed to have maximum support of women voters fielded only 10 candidates, followed by 10 and 5 by RJD and INC, respectively. The BJP fielded the maximum 14 candidates out of which only 4 were able to win. In contrast the strike rate of RJD women candidates was 10/10, JD (U) 9/10 and INC 4/5. This gives us some picture of the space available for women in Bihar politics in terms of decision making, even though their political participation is on an increasing trend.

Now, let us take a look at the participation of Muslim voters. The highest voter turnouts in this election have been recorded in areas of high Muslism concentration – seemanchal districts of Araria (41% Muslim population), Kishanganj (78%), Purnia (37%) and Katihar (43%) and the West Champaran (21%) district. This clearly shows the enthusiasm with which Muslims participate in the democratic process, especially in Bihar. Asaduddin Owaisi’s Muslim-right party The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) fielded 6 six candidates in seemanchal but even after severe polarization attempts by him as well as BJP, MIM failed to win any seats. So, this election de-mystified any confusion what-so-ever about the political judgement of the Muslims, as they opted for reason over religion. Despite that, in terms of representation, even after a minor increase, their numbers are still bleak. RJD fielded the highest number of 15 Muslim candidates of which 12 were able to win. INC and JD (U) fielded 10 and 7 candidates respectively, of which 6 won in each. The entire BJP+HAM+LJP combine fielded only 10 candidates of which none were able to win.

The axis, however, of this election was caste. Based on the data analysis done by various sources, this election has seen a sharp increase in the representation of OBCs, a trend which was on a constant decline after the split of Janta Dal in 1997. At the same time, upper caste is reported to have the lowest representation in the entire history of Bihar legislature.  The slogan that Lalu Yadav launched from Patna Gandhi Maidan in a public rally in 1990 – BHU-RA-BAA-L saaf karo (clear off the upper castes, Bhumihaar-Rajput-Brahman-Lala) – finds its most visible manifestation 25 years down the line. It might be just a co-incidence that BHURA BAAL means brown hair in Hindi and in the colonial times, British were referred to by the same name. So, at the time when BJP’s winning streak has revived the dominance of upper caste almost in all the states that it has presence in, Bihar once again stands out as a momentous exception.

The profile within the backward caste representation indicates a sizeable increase in Yadav MLAs in contrast to decline in the Kurmis. The gap is so huge that it is being reported that one out of four MLAs in Bihar is now a Yadav. The depressing aspect however, is the decline in Dalit representation which can be attributed to the unholy alliance of LJP and HAM, the parties with dalit mass base, with BJP.

Revival of Lalu Yadav: Celebration of a culture

Dekha hai pahli baar, saajan ke aakhon mein pyaar, the popular song from 1991 Hindi film Saajan was a huge hit in Bihar. I was a kid at that time, little above 5 years of age. But I still remember how the sluggish gatherings at the local shops would tease the Yadavs with the parody, “dekha hai pahli baar, babhan ke aage gowar” (for first time Gowars are seen ahead of the Babhans). Bhumihaars are also called Babhans and Yadavs are also called Gowar in Bihar.

It is a fact that, Yadavs on the whole, because of the nature of their work and their daily interactions with the upper caste – for milking their cattle and cleaning up the cow dung – have received maximum humiliation from the upper castes over the centuries. The emergence of Yadavs as an invincible political force was a threat to elite sensibilities and mannerisms, not only in Bihar but in the whole Hindi heartland, which later came to be referred to as cowbelt by the elite media.

If there are few leaders in the world who had a defining impact on the culture of a society as huge as Bihar’s, Lalu is one of them. In a society which evolved from fragmented feudalism and cultural poverty of the ruling elite, Lalu Yadav came in as a storm and ravaged all attempts of building a bhadralok culture (on the lines of neighboring Bengal from which Bihar got separated in 1912). Apart from the political cleansing, Lalu achieved this by making the bureaucracy spineless and defunct. To a large extent with the help of the successive increase in backward caste quota, he was able to change the caste profile of the all upper-caste exclusive bureaucracy as it existed in Bihar before the 1990s.

What is referred to as “Jungle Raj” by the upper castes and the elites, was an era of political churning in which the avenues to which the upper caste had exclusive access, was now opened to a greater section of the population. This included avenues of crime as well which led to large scale lumpenization of youth in the lack of productive engagements. But, Lalu alone cannot be blamed for that. The economic situation of Bihar is heavily dependent on the colonial nature of the policies of the center amongst several other factors including its geo-political position. The so called “Jungle Raj” flourished in the absence of a cadre based structure which is typical of more organized parties like CPI(M) in Bengal. It was a period in Bihar’s post-colonial history where democracy thrived and state weakened. The result is a dominant culture which is rustic and ordinary, quite opposite to the parallels from any other state in India. The political revival of Lalu Yadav, more than anything else, is a celebration of that culture.

Dent in the fascist agenda

This election has created a situation for RSS and BJP, which is popularly called saap-chhuchhundar wala halat in Bihar. In literal term it means the situation when a snake swallows a bandicoot which it is neither able to swallow nor able to cough up. Greatly undermining the wisdom of the party veterans and the local leadership, Amit Shah ran this election as a corporate game plan. The resentment within the party was always there but Bihar election results provided enough fuel for it to explode.

Barely two days after the humiliating defeat in Bihar, the BJP veterans – L.K. Advani, Murali Manohar Joshi, Yashwant Sinha and Shanta Kumar – issued a joint statement heavily criticizing the leadership and functioning of the party. They went on to say that the party was being “forced to kow-tow to a handful”. It is hard to forget that in the formative years of the party, BJP’s slogan in Bihar was Bhaajapa ke teen dharohar, atal, Advani aur murali Manohar (BJP has three legends, Atal, Advani, Murali Manohar). It may take RSS a couple of more political setbacks to realize the intensity of the discontent, but Bihar results, for sure, has provided the roots for new developments within the BJP.

The presence of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in Bihar was less like politicians and more like foreign capitalists who visit improvised nations with deals and packages and try to buy out the people, while strengthening the cords of historical exploitation of the masses.  The promise of Rs. 1.25 crore special package for Bihar sounded more like a Diwali sale in which electrical appliances are at sale in the big showrooms in Patna where the poor villagers coming from remote areas fear to enter. In the face of severe lack of basic infrastructure and industrialization, how these packages will be siphoned by the bureaucrats, politicians, contractors and criminals is a fact that every kid knows in Bihar. But, still it will be interesting to see if the BJP would remain committed to its pre-poll promise and what would be the terms and conditions.

What is left in the “Left Unity”?

In all the Mayhem, the politics of the left parties went unnoticed. The six left parties – CPI, CPI(ML) Liberation, CPI(M), All India Forward Bloc, Socialist Unity Centre of India (C) and Revolutionary Socialist Party – for the first time joined hands to contest the assembly elections together in Bihar. What was termed as “a new beginning” by Sitaram Yechuri at a joint press conference in Patna, was yet another disappointment for the mainstream left. In contrast to the one seat won by CPI in 2010 from Bachchwara (Begusarai) seat, this year the “left unity” could win only 3 seats – all by CPI (ML) Liberation.

In an election which saw the highest number of helicopters flying in Bihar, CPI(ML) is probably the only winning party which used rail and roads for its campaigns. One of the seats which CPI(ML) won is Tarari, Bhojpur. Bhojpur was the cradle of Naxalism in Bihar and it was the first Lok Sabha constituency from which Indian People’s Front (frontal organization of the then underground CPI(ML)-Liberation) candidate Rameshwar Prasad won election in 1989. In 1990 Bihar assembly elections IPF won seven seats of which one was Tarari, Bhojpur. Wining the Tarari seat again, in this bastion of upper caste, after a gap of 25 years shows that Dalits still have some faith left in the parliamentary left.

The role played by mass organizations of CPI(ML)-Liberation in sustaining the spirit of revolution should not go without mention. Whatever be their party line, the organizations like Jan Sanskriti Manch and Hirawal with the support of AISA have been doing some remarkable work in the field of theatre, literature, murals, songs, etc. They are probably the only organization in Bihar who are able to progress the revolutionary tradition in the cities and small towns of Bihar.

Possibilities and Challenges to revolutionary politics

The results of this election throw new possibilities and challenges to the revolutionary politics in Bihar. In its long history of peasant struggle, Bihar has seen a constant challenge from the tenacious social reality of caste. All attempts of class struggle in some way or the other have turned into caste struggles. After a major setback during the emergency era, the Naxalite movement in Bihar re-emerged in the 1980s. By that time several factions of Naxalite parties were active in Bihar. The most prominent of them were CPI(ML) – Liberation, CPI(ML) – Party Unity (which merged with CPI(ML)-People’s War in 1998), CPI(ML)-People’s War, and MCCI.

Though the origin of these factions was outside Bihar and was mostly a result of ideological and tactical differences, in Bihar they got aligned heavily on caste lines. There were times when these groups have collaborated with each other and there are times when they had big confrontations leading to death tolls. There were almost thirteen upper castes or upper backward caste militias that also emerged during this period. The main militia groups that emerged were Bhumi Sena of Kurmis, Lorik Sena of Yadavs and Ranvir Sena of Bhumihars. These groups were successful in achieving solidarity along caste lines and this severely impacted the class based organizations. The struggle for land and resources eventually transforms into the most elemental form of feudal warfare.

Between 1990 to 2001, a total of 51 massacres have been recorded in which 571 deaths have been registered out of which 438 deaths were of mostly Dalits and some backward castes. The Ranvir Sena alone has perpetrated 27 massacres leading to 263 deaths. The rise of Ranvir Sena and the carnages performed by them can also be attributed to the abandoning of arm struggle by the CPI(ML)-Liberation who used to have a strong mass base in the Dalit community which comprise mostly of landless agricultural laborers. It is believed that MCCI used to be dominated by Yadavs and was carefully used by Lalu Yadav for electoral gains. A similar theory about Kurmis dominating the People’s War, is also there.

Just a year after the merger of CPI(ML)-People’s War and MCCI into CPI (Maoist), on the night of Nov 13, 2005, about 1000 Maoists launched the “Operation Jailbreak” in Jehanabad in which 341 prisoners fled, including CPI (Maoist) state secretary Ajay Kanu. In the operation they also killed 2 Ranvir Sena men and took another 40 captive. This has been the biggest achievement of the Maoists in a non-tribal area. With the consolidation of backward castes in the new power dynamics in Bihar, it would be interesting to see its impact on the struggles at the grassroots.

The new government’s intentions will be judged in the initial days by two things. First, how much interest does it take in implementing the D. Bandyopadhyay committee’s report, which has been stalled since April 2008 by Nitish Kumar due to pressures by big land owners and his former partner, BJP. Second, whether it revives the Amir Das commission which was setup to probe the nexus between Ranvir Sena and the politicians. The success in getting any progressive policies implemented will depend heavily on the struggle of the revolutionary forces.




No Comments »

Leave a comment