IF the Delhi mandate gave the first resounding rebuff to RSS and the Narendra Modi government, Bihar has now unfurled the banner of revolt. Describing the Bihar assembly results as a vote against divisive politics of communal hate and religious intolerance practiced by the BJP, would indeed be a too simplistic evaluation of the mandate. A closer look at the nature of the verdict shows that it was a protest against the policy of hegemony of the upper caste and landed gentry.
After a long 15 years, the CPI (ML) Liberation which went to the assembly elections as a part of the independent block of six Left parties, CPI (M), CPI, SUCI, RSP and Forward Block, won three seats. It won Balrampur, Darauli and Tarari. While the outcome of three seats marks only a modest improvement of the 2010 polls when the Left had managed to send only one member in the Assembly, this year’s combined vote share of nearly 4 per cent marks out the Left as the only potential third force in a bipolar Bihar.
Let us look at one specific development; the CPI( ML)-Liberation winning three seats that too in a ‘polarised’ Bihar elections. Amid the face-off between BJP-led NDA and the JD(U)-RJD- Congress ‘grand alliance’, the CPI(ML) succeeded in snatching these seats. CPI(ML) candidate from Darauli in West Bihar won by 13,000 votes, while in Balrampur CPI-ML has won by a margin of 22,000. Sudama Prasad wrested the Tarari seat from the wife of the JD(U) don, Sunil Pandey.
This victory points to the upsurge and assertion of the rights of the rural poor and proletariat. The party lost 22 seats by narrow margins. Obviously it implied that the poor people preferred the Liberations to JD(U) or RJD. Down the line it also reflects the emergence of the new political trend and line in Bihar. This victory is also significant for the reason that it has come in the backdrop of intense fight between the Mandal and Kamandal forces. The people of Bihar preferred to be identified with the political forces and leaders which represented their aspirations. Basically this was the reason that Bihar attracted the ominous identity of being the most caste ridden state.
While this win vindicates the core strength and developing potential of the Left, it also reinforces the fact that Bihar election was fought on the class line. The rural poor, landless labourers and scheduled castes had organised to oppose the policy of hegemony of the upper caste feudal lords who were contemplating to stage a comeback riding piggyback on the BJP. For last fifteen years the CPI(ML) could not win a single seat from Bhojpur notwithstanding carrying on sustained struggle in the district.
The victory of the CPI(ML) from Tarari in Bhojpur has many significant aspects. The CPI (ML) candidate Sudama Prasad defeated the NDA candidate by a margin of 296 votes. Primary reason being defeat of Indubhusan Singh, son of Barmeshwar Singh, the supreme commander of the landlord’s militia Ranavir Sena. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh had fielded Indubhushan Singh, who now leads the organisation, as his party’s candidate. The ‘Mahagatbandhan’ had fielded Akhilesh Prasad Singh, former RJD MP and Union Minister, as a Congress nominee. Incidentally, Akhilesh at the funeral of Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh had referred to the architect of the massacres of Dalit and labourers as ‘a towering personality the likes of whom are born once in 100-200 years whose stature remains higher than any MP or MLA.’
The Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) of Ram Vilas Paswan had fielded Geeta Pandey, the wife of dreaded don Sunil Pandey, who had been the sitting MLA from Tarari, elected from the JDU. At Tarari all other candidates had connections with the Ranvir Sena. Once this seat was held by the architect of the Naxalite movement in Bihar Ram Naresh Ram but the party lost it in 2010. The CPI-ML win in Tarari is being viewed as renewal of its traditional stronghold in Bhojpur. Once the cradle of Naxalism in Bihar, Bhojpur has been witness to killings of the Dalits and the downtrodden in 1990s during Lalu-Rabri regime. Several ML grassroots workers had to sacrifice their lives in dozens of carnages.
In Bhojpur CPI(ML) leader Satish Yadav was killed just on the eve of the elections and three of CPI(ML)’s most prospective candidates agricultural labour leader Satyadeo Ram, who has won from Darauli in Siwan and Amarjeet Kushwaha and Manoj Manzil who finished close from Zeradei (Siwan) and Agiaon (Bhojpur) were arrested on fabricated charges at the time of filing their nomination.
Satyadev Ram (Darauli, Siwan), who defeated the BJP candidate by a margin of 10,000 votes, contested from jail. The CPI(ML) candidate from Ziradei, Amarjit Kushwaha is also in jail. Cases were slapped on them in 2013 during a struggle of Dalit landless labourers. BJP-backed landlords led by the local BJP MLA had fired on the Dalits. Mahboob Alam was elected from the Balrampur seat in Katihar district, defeating the BJP candidate by a margin of nearly 23000 votes.
The CPI(ML) candidates on 22 seats were the runners up. Obviously it pointed to the changing mood and emerging new political line in rural Bihar. One development is crystal clear defying the pressures as compulsions of a bipolar election and a massive wave in favour of the JDU-RJD-Congress alliance, the revolutionary communists not only defended their citadels of struggle but also identified with the emerging new political consciousness. The CPI had won Bachchwara seat in 2010 polls which the Left parties had contested separately. This time the CPI and CPI(M) failed to win even a single seat despite contesting as a united Left bloc.
The support of the rural poor, youth and increased participation of peasants and women gave the CPI(ML) campaign its strength and energy. What makes this victory truly memorable is the extremely unequal nature of the electoral battle and the inhospitable media environment. While the media projected the non-existent SP-NCP-Pappu Yadav coalition as the real ‘third front’, it ignored the Left bloc. Interestingly, the election results reveal that the third front has been a real non starter. Combined together they could not muster more than 1.5 per cent of the votes.
Rejuvenating the old base built through decades of struggles, which has turned dormant during the last decade following creeping in of certain ambiguity in the Left forces and particularly in the CPI(ML) after emergence of Lalu Yadav as the voice of the oppressed, and translating the Left’s undisputed credibility and goodwill in terms of pro-people politics into votes was indeed an arduous task that too in the present backdrop. But it was the division of the rural society on the class line and the CPI(ML) digging deep into its core strength that helped it win its three seats in the midst of this electoral storm.