Retention of power by BJP-JD(U) in Bihar despite widespread anger among the people against the Govts. at the Centre and in the state has increased challenges before the people of the country. When the elections were announced it was propagated to be an easy victory for the ruling NDA but the anger of the people propelled by crisis faced by migrant workers due to inhuman lockdown imposed by RSS-BJP ruling at the Centre, unleashed resentment against the ruling dispensation. It brought to fore all the crises inherent in the largely agrarian and rural Bihar. On top of it, RSS-BJP ruling at the Centre which also ruled Bihar in alliance mainly with JD(U) led by CM Nitish Kumar, sought to gain people’s approval for its fascist rule, whipping up of chauvinist frenzy and incarceration of pro-people democratic rights activists of anti-CAA activists. They sought to project electoral verdict as support for their Hindutva project which is another name of their fascist drive.
Sensing the people’s anger at their anti-people fascist rule, RSS-BJP and their corporate patrons implemented an elaborate plan to shield their rule. Corporate media started ascribing anti-NDA mood to anti-incumbency which they had themselves dismissed even a month earlier; started praising Laloo Yadav’s son and RJD leader Tejaswi Yadav albeit for all the wrong reasons. Misled by this new found praise and hoping to ride on the wave of anger against the ruling alliance, Tejaswi Yadav forgot how little his Party and its allies had done in sympathy of the migrant workers from Bihar. Obviously ruling JD(U) and RSS-BJP were criminally guilty for the sufferings of migrant workers of which a good part were from Bihar, but even the opposition parties did not stand with them. When workers were forced to march to their homes, none of the ruling class parties were to be seen on the ground. There was a strong wave of anger which opposition was hoping to cash on but had done little to emerge as an alternative on that score.
So clear were the ruling RSS-BJP on not letting the anger of the people pinned on the gross and criminal mishandling of pandemic that they employed all tricks to divert the people from issue. From the beginning corporate media sought to project it an issue of governance in Bihar. They totally ignored, or at best mentioned in passing, the sufferings of people of Bihar due to lockdown. People’s sufferings highlighted the questions of jobs, lack of health care and education which force millions of people from Bihar to migrate out of state for the bare survival of their families. Now this anger with inhuman lockdown as its backdrop owed everything to the Narendra Modi led RSS-BJP Govt. at the Centre. Nitish led JD(U)-RSS-BJP Govt.’s insensitive handling had only contributed to this anger. But Narendra Modi and RSS-BJP were continuously shielded by the corporate media. The whole day of reporting on the election results, corporate loudspeakers kept on blurting that results will show whether Narendra Modi is able to overcome the decidedly existing anti-incumbency against Nitish Kumar as if Modi and the ruling RSS-BJP had no responsibility. Firstly, Modi’s BJP is a partner in JD(U)-BJP govt. in Bihar and more importantly it was the Central Govt. which had pushed out millions of migrant workers (estimated to be over three million) back to Bihar from other states. This corporate propaganda is in tune of building the persona of the leader which is so essential for imposing fascist dictatorship.
Not leaving it to media management alone, RSS-BJP egged on LJP leader Chirag Paswan to attack JD(U) while affirming full faith in Modi and BJP. He did that dutifully. Nitish was to be placated by continuous clatter of their commitment to make him Chief Minister of NDA. Nitish like many other leaders of regional parties have long renounced whatever they stood for, only clinging to power catering to particular social groups. RSS-BJP and its leaders including Modi refused to criticize Chirag and his tirade against Nitish. It was useful for them to keep Nitish in check and to divert the attention of the people away from the misdeeds of the Central Govt. led by RSS-BJP and to exonerate RSS-BJP from the misdeeds of Bihar Govt. of which they have been important part.
At a time when trends were showing that Nitish may not come back to power, JD(U)’s spokesperson K.C. Tyagi let the cat out of bag that “disastrous economic consequences” of Covid were responsible for setback to Nitish Kumar and JD(U). He also insinuated that BJP had allowed Chirag Paswan led LJP to attack JD(U) alone and no attempt was made by BJP to restrain him. This deftly crafted strategy however may have strained relations among ruling partners in Bihar.
This strategy could succeed in part due to stand of the main opposition party, RJD which too focused on attacking Nitish Kumar leaving out RSS-BJP leaders. In fact RJD led main opposition alliance did not make inhuman lockdown or the fascist rule of RSS-BJP led alliance as the main planks of their electoral pitch hoping people’s anger alone to pave their way to power, a strategy which is being pursued by Congress and its allies at the Centre and in several states.
Backdrop of the Elections
The present elections were held in the shadow of the hardships imposed on people of Bihar during the lockdown imposed by RSS-BJP Govt. in the name of Corona pandemic, though it had little to do with controlling the pandemic. Millions of Biharis driven out of their jobs and livelihood, uncared by the govts. of the states they were working in were treated shabbily by Nitish led RSS-BJP and JD(U) govt. in Bihar. How they were being stopped to being handed over to police had made heart rending stories is well known. This made the issue of joblessness in Bihar a critical question. Despite being among the states with richest resources- rich land and even richer human resource, people of Bihar have faced tremendous hardships with feudal oppression being among the worst in the country. State witnessed closure of whatever industries were there even those dependent on agricultural produce as raw material. With agriculture in stagnation with no govt. taking up meaningful land reforms and total lack of industries, the state faced a very acute crisis of growing unemployment. Unwilling to make any meaningful changes in agrarian relations, ruling classes were unable to create employment. People of Bihar had to migrate to long distances even for sustaining themselves and their families. This was encouraged by the ruling class parties as a safety valve for the sharp agrarian unrest involving landless and poor peasants.
While landless poor peasants waged valiant struggles for land and means of livelihood and against economic exploitation and social oppression, ruling class forces too intervened in the struggle against social oppression. In fact this intervention was not sudden having a long history of fight against social oppression. The main feature of their mobilization was divorcing the struggle against social oppression from the struggle against economic exploitation and oppression in which it was rooted. This was obviously more acceptable to ruling classes which have been pursuing a policy of co-option of some sections from socially oppressed to perpetuate their class exploitation and class rule. It helped the ruling classes in keeping/taking away broad sections of backward classes from the revolutionary movement which represented their basic interests. In the backdrop of serious struggle of landless poor peasants, struggle of backward classes broke through the domination of upper caste dominated ruling classes and emerged as claimants to power. Bereft of economic justice, this quest for social justice remained half-baked and resulted in the rise of sections from these social groups vying for power. With no programme or rather opposition to programmes for socio-economic justice, these sections become new leaders of the ruling classes in Bihar. They strove for greater caste consolidation for electoral purpose. Changeover of the upper castes’ affiliation towards Hindutva politics further helped consolidate this caste mobilization for the time.
Some important results of the ‘success’ of this struggle have been marginalization of the struggle of the landless poor peasants, especially sections of backward classes moving away from it or at least not drawn to it, especially in the areas which had thitherto not been areas of sharp struggle, hence acting as a check on its spread. Another important result of this divorce between struggle against economic exploitation and social oppression in rural Bihar, has been that new sections joining the ruling classes’ political outfits giving up land reforms. 15 years of Lalu-Rabri (RJD) Govt. and next 15 years of Nitish Kumar govt. (two of them in alliance with RJD, rest with RSS-BJP) saw no steps for land reforms. Even the Bandopahyay Commission Report was consigned to the dustbin. First recommendation of Mandal Commission i.e. of radical land reforms, was buried by followers of Mandal in pursuit of their economic gains and political power within the existing system.
With these sections emerging as important components of ruling class politics, they did not lag behind in suppression of revolutionary movement of landless and poor peasants. Stagnation in the rural areas continued with glorifying the migration of labourers – the so-called ‘Shramvirs’. No attention was paid to the needs of education and health of the people. A large number of youth migrated to other cities including for education and Delhi hospitals are a witness to abysmal conditions of health care services in Bihar. There was no emphasis on developing any industry, even saving a few existing ones even after formation of Jharkhand. Bihar became a near pure agrarian state of backward relations of production and witnessed mobilization of social groups in the interest of ruling class politics.
Govt. jobs remained the only form of employment and Govt. contracts only form of business. The latter led to rise of Mafia encompassing all economic activities. The former was taken care of by rising number of contract jobs increasing job insecurity and depressing wages.
Forging of Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance)
The alliance of parliamentary opposition parties led by RJD and comprising of Congress, CPI, CPM and CPI(ML)-Liberation emerged as the main contender for power. Whatever be the arithmetic in the outgoing Bihar Assembly, RSS-BJP were the real leaders of the ruling alliance. Nitish Kumar’s turnabout from RJD-JD(U)-Congress alliance and going back to RSS-BJP led NDA which it had quit over BJP naming Narendra Modi as its nominee for Prime Minister in the run up to Lok Sabha elections in 2014 with whom it had been in alliance since mid 1990s, robbed Nitish Kumar of his own standing. This made him dependent on RSS-BJP and Modi-Shah.
Coming together of main ruling class opposition parties and parliamentary Left has a background. Not only ruling class parties ‘championing’ social justice, even the revisionist parties like CPI, CPM had long given up struggle of landless poor peasants for land and against social oppression. They had since long been transformed into representatives of the ruling classes. Though they had not been part of Govt. in Bihar but have long participated in the alliances of ruling class parties and have fought elections as part of such alliances. CPI leader from Bihar has been in the Central Govt. in UF Govt. formed in 1996. CPI(ML)-Liberation which had gained a mass base among landless poor peasants in parts of Bihar through leading their struggles, also had a history of its own on this score. Long back it had renounced struggle for land and sought to use the base gained during earlier phase of struggle for their parliamentary politics. They too have been aligning with ruling class parties starting with their alliance with Samata Party in Bihar, precursor of JD(U), way back in mid 1990s when Samata Party was formed after splitting away from the then JD. It had come to the conclusion that they have to align with dominant rural sections to achieve electoral success. As it had given up on agrarian revolutionary movement, it adopted the course of hobnobbing with ruling class parties. Coming to last parliamentary elections (2019) Liberation had struck a deal with RJD led alliance in Bihar wherein it the alliance had left Arah for Liberation and Liberation did not field its candidates from some constituencies, namely in Patna wherefrom Lalu Yadav’s daughter was a candidate. In that elections CPI and CPM were not accommodated in the alliance though they wanted very much to be part of it. CPI(ML)-Liberation longstanding votary of ‘Left Confederation’ abandoned their ‘Left’ allies for greener pastures endearing themselves to the leadership of RJD. There is a long history of electoral alliances that these revisionist parties have in Bihar as elsewhere. They couch their alliances in high sounding phrases but are essentially seat hunting as part of their seeking share of power in the present system. Its present context i.e. opposition to RSS-BJP and its allies, is incidental for the revisionist parties.
‘Social Justice’ Plank Renounced
Grand Alliance anointed Tejaswi Yadav as their leader and projected him as their Chief Minister candidate. Hoping to ride to power on the people’s anger, Tejaswi Yadav tried to endear himself to the dominant sections of ruling elite. Distancing himself from the ‘social justice’ terming it the plank of old times he talked of ‘economic justice’ which in reality meant to renounce, even formally, the plank of social justice. This counter-posing of social justice and economic justice has been the hallmark of the ruling class politics. In practice it amounted to giving up on the most backward castes and Mahadalits and seeking to endear themselves to upper caste social groups who have emerged as the new arbiters of power in the context of rise of sections of backward classes to positions of power. This stand of RJD helped Nitish Kumar and RSS-BJP to keep their base among these sections i.e. EBCs (Extremely Backward Castes) and Mahadalits to some extent despite large scale anger among these sections, being referred to silent voters in specific context of Bihar.
As we have repeatedly noted main ruling class parties, especially RSS-BJP, have learnt to counter broad social mobilizations with micromanagement of castes. In this, the ruling class parties’ attitude to using caste oppression and division only for share of power and not to address the question of caste oppression has been used by RSS-BJP, which mainly relies on upper castes, to mobilize other backward castes against the dominant backward castes vying for power. Same goes for ruling class leaders from Dalits like Mayawati and Paswans. Renouncing the struggle for social justice, they have become appendages of the main ruling class parties, promising to deliver votes of their social base in exchange of share in power. Social justice they have renounced, economic justice they do not even understand, let alone deliver.
Manifesto of Grand Alliance
Manifestos of the ruling class parties are basically like advertisements meant to sell products. They are seldom taken seriously by their writers. Hence one should not determine the character of their rule by their manifestos but by their deeds; not by what they say but by what they do. The Manifestos can only be useful for exposing their going back on what they had promised. However, manifestos are important to decipher not what they say but what they choose not to say. We will see important glaring omissions in “Our Pledge” released by RJD, Congress, CPI, CPM and CPI(ML)-Liberation. Separate manifestos may be important when there in only seat adjustments but not when there is an alliance with a common leadership. In that situation, such separate documents are meant only to keep the faithful hoodwinked.
The most glaring omission has been no mention of land reforms. Even Bandopadhayay Commission has not even been referred to in “Our Pledge”. This despite the fact that most of the constituents of Grand Alliance barring Congress have been supporting implementation of Bandhopadhyay commission recommendations. What can economic justice be in predominantly agrarian, semi-feudal society without land reforms.
The Pledge talks of providing 1 million jobs, “The process of filling 4.5 lakhs vacancies and creation of 5.5 lakh vacancies will start from the first cabinet meeting.” So only process will be started and there is no mention when it will be completed. There is no concrete proposal on how to develop industries in Bihar, not even re-opening of the closed industries. Significantly The Pledge talks of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) for manufacturing showing what route they wished to take!
Even on immigrant workers whose plight has been enormous only a vague promise “Immigrant workers families will be helped.” They named it “Karpoori Shramvir Sahayata Kendra” another act of mere symbolism.
There have been several promises but little concrete and essentially no plan for their realization. For example promise to waiving of agricultural loans but not giving to what extent would be waived or time frame of the loan waiver. Again, promise of reduction in electricity rates but not mentioning how much these will be reduced. It is so much in tune with ruling class parties to make vague promises.
Basically there is no measures against the landlords. There is a mention of opening closed jute mills, paper mill and sugar mills, but no mention how it will be done. Not even mentioned the type of capital that will be invested in their revival.
A very significant aspect has been their stand on democratic rights which is vague “Talk to all mass movements. No false case against movement activist or innocent.” There is no commitment that black laws will not be implemented under their rule in Bihar. Regarding false cases, no govt. ever accepts that they are foisting false cases. This is particularly important as the issue of democratic rights has emerged as an important feature against the rule of fascist RSS-BJP.
It is also significant that there is no mention of combating communalism in The Pledge. This despite deepening communal divide under the RSS-BJP led NDA rule in Bihar. It is also noteworthy that leading partners in the Grand Alliance, RJD and Congress, had not taken active part in the movement against CAA-NRC-NPR in Bihar. In fact, the Manifesto (Our Pledge) has definite Congress imprint.
While the RSS-BJP and its allies mainly JD(U) could retain power despite a widespread anger among the people, the victory is being projected as vindication of RSS-BJP’s fascist rule. Modi is being given the credit for warding off “anti-incumbency” against Nitish Kumar. In fact the two alliances virtually polled same number of votes and ruling alliance was tipped over the finish line in some seats with help from the Election Commission, continuing on the path of compromising the state institutions have been taking. BJP’s performance was no better than past. In fact they got less seats (74 then 91) than they got in 2010 despite fighting on lesser number of seats (102 this time 110).
We have analyzed how within the constraints of the conduction of elections by the present ruling class machinery, Grand Alliance could not defeat the ruling NDA due to its own lack of commitment to the people’s issues. Anger of the people was manifest in the fact that nearly half of the sitting MLAs were defeated.
Another important aspect is that Grand Alliance was disrupted on the eve of the elections with some smaller parties claiming to represent sections of EBCs and Dalits ejected out of the alliance. Given the equal votes polled by the two alliances, the move has proved that Grand Alliance had given less priority to defeating the fascist RSS-BJP and its allies. For revisionist parties it was an exercise in “seat hunting” and not giving setback to fascist RSS-BJP which many people had hoped from them especially outside Bihar. In fact, Grand Alliance did not make Central Govt. or RSS-BJP their main target despite the latter ruling at the Centre and being a dominant partner in the state. Grand Alliance made Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister their main target hoping to ride to power on this ‘anti-incumbency’.
CPI(ML)-New Democracy Call
CPI(ML)-New Democracy had called for defeating RSS-BJP and its ally JD(U). We had also exposed the opposition ruling class parties for their lack of sincerity to people’s issues and also in combating assault on democratic rights by fascist rulers. Our Call was based on what RSS-BJP stands for and its fascist rule while we tried to remove illusions among the people about ruling class opposition parties. This was a Call in the concrete conditions where country is facing widespread suppression of democratic rights, where state institutions are surrendering before RSS led fascist forces and while attacks on the working class and peasantry are being intensified.
There should be no doubt that struggles of the working class and peasantry will be the main force against fascist rule and increasing stranglehold of RSS over the state machinery. The struggle for the democratic rights has also emerged as one of the main arenas of struggle. Now this struggle is for the existing democratic rights i.e. rights given by the Constitution and laws of the land. This has to an extent influenced form and content of this struggle. The two struggles i.e. struggle against exploitation and oppression and struggle for democratic rights are inter-related and should not be viewed in isolation. We should be vigilant against the disregarding the struggle against rule of fascist forces and struggle for democratic rights. This will be isolating ourselves from the rising struggle of the people against fascist rule.
However, the struggle of the toiling people especially working class and peasantry, will be the main component of struggle against fascist rule in India and intensifying offensive of the fascist forces. Their struggle against oppression and exploitation will be the main bulwark against fascism. All steps should be taken to gear for this struggle.