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India: Results of the elections in Bihar give hopes to the Left

Monday 16 November 2020, by siawi3


Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

Lessons and Hopes From Bihar Election

Friday 13 November 2020

by Vijay Kumar *

The results in Bihar Assembly Election could be summed up in one sentence. The juggernaut of toxic Moditva is rolling, nay, kicking, but could be countered through class solidarity by putting the issue of economic justice on the forefront.

The whole credit for NDA success attributed to P.M. Modi masks the massive investment made by the BJP. The BJP had been hyperactive with a virtual rally from September onwards and continued till the end, whereas there was no virtual rally from Mahagathbandhan side. It is true that Hindutva has obvious appeal among the forward castes, nay, conservative segments of other castes. But the reality was that BJP on its own was not in a position to win Bihar election. Continuing with the alliance with JD(U) and projecting its leader Nitish Kumar as Chief Minister was a sheer compulsion for BJP. It was due to Nitish Kumar the votes of extreme backward castes got transferred in favour of BJP along with almost en bloc votes of forward castes. Had BJP contested on its own, it could not have secured the seats it got only on the basis of votes of forward castes, whose votes constitute merely 15%. It is the votes of extremely backward castes, which was the votes of Nitish Kumar, that was transferred to BJP that resulted in BJP securing almost 30 seats more than JD(U) and emerging as a dominant NDA partner. Nitish was cut down to size because of the crass mechanism of the BJP by allowing one of its allies, LJP of Chirag Paswan to damage another ally, that is JD(U) of Nitish. This kind of brinkmanship ensured that Nitish has emerged highly bruised even after securing his Chief Ministership consecutively for the fourth time.

The BJP has also shown flexibility and adjustment towards alliance by accommodating Manjhi’s HAM(S) and Mukesh Sahani’s VIP after they left Mahagathbandhan. Both HAM(S) and VIP secured 4 seats each and their success proved out to be a clincher. On the other hand, Mahagathbandhan was let down badly by shockingly under-performance of the Congress Party and dent into Muslim votes made by Owaisi’s AIMIM, especially in Seemanchal region where Muslim votes is more than 30%. Had Mahagathbandhan accommodated Manjhi, Sahani and even Kushwaha from highly disproportionate 70 seats given to Congress, the Maha Gatbandhan would have ended up with almost 150 seats. The Congress has also damaged the prospect of the secular coalition by remaining extremely cagey-indeed downright defensive on the issue of secularism and it is this ambivalence of Congress that has opened the gate for Owaisi to step in and make inroad in Muslim votes. Taking Manjhi, Kushwaha and Sahani on board along with the Left groups would have made the Maha Gatbandhan coalition more broad-based.

Notwithstanding the fact the NDA has retained Bihar, the Man of the Match is undoubtedly Tejashwi Yadav. He is young and exuded tremendous energy by conducting as many as 253 rallies and has emerged an impressive speaker. The real significance of his style of campaign is bringing the issue of economic justice on centre-stage. He transformed social justice by grounding it in the notion of economic justice by moving away from his father’s variant of social justice rooted in caste identity. Here, the alliance with the Left parties lent considerable weight in putting the issue of economic justice as a main plank of Mahagathbandhan. Left forces have done well and it is their performance that propelled Tejashwi led Mahagathbandhan by almost reaching to the target. The legacy from Bihar verdict is that the issue of mobilization on the basis of caste has started. I have been arguing that the hegemony of BJP could be countered only through class mobilization rather than on the basis of caste identity (see: Combating Identity Politics Through Class Consolidation, Mainstream Issue dated 17.10.2020).

Tejashwi has also succeeded in setting up the agenda by raising the issue of unemployment and with the promise of providing 10 Lakhs jobs. This has forced the BJP and NDA to respond to it by promising 19 Lakhs jobs. Even since 2014, this is the first instance in which the BJP, even in his hegemonic moment, is compelled to respond to the agenda set up by opposition party. Tejashwi is going to be the leader of the opposition, and he must step up the demand for the jobs and should keep on harping on the issue of material deprivation, particularly the loss of jobs. He should also keep on acquiring further proficiency in his Hindi delivery. I have been arguing from 2014 that the Opposition Parties, including Congress, must have at least half a dozen mass-based leaders in Hindi heartland, who can also be impressive speakers in Hindi. It is equally puzzling that Kanhaiya, the former President of JNU Students Union, is an extremely impressive speaker in Hindi and yet he was not used by CPI or other Left parties. Kanhaiya toured extensively in Bihar in last year and wherever he spoke, he drew a huge crowd from the youth. One of the handicaps of Rahul Gandhi is that he is a better speaker in English rather than Hindi and that explains the shockingly poor performance of Congress in the heart of Hindi heartland: Bihar and U.P.

Notwithstanding the euphoria, the fact remains that Bihar is the only state in Hindi heartlands where BJP is still not in a position to have its own Chief Minister. Though Tejashwi led Mahagathbandhan missed the target by a whisker, he succeeded in bringing the material issue to the fore. The stellar performance of Tejashwi must lead to the consolidation of forces and groups of secularism and social justice with an emphasis on redistribution.

Vijay Kumar, Advocate, The Supreme Court of India



Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

2020 Bihar State Assembly Election Raises Hope of Combating Horror

Friday 13 November 2020

by Sankar Ray

The Mahagathbandhan (MGB) model in the Bihar state assembly elections has proved to be an entirely new experiment paving the way for an alternative to the rightwing Hindutva fascism. that aims at the destruction of the parliamentary democratic order. The MGB reminds one of Georgi Mikhaylovich Dimitrov, Secretary-General of Communist International – his simple and unambiguous slogan to halt Fascism and Nazism of Popular Front in Europe. Dimitrov put forward only one condition for uniting the people- unflinching opposition to Fascism and Nazism.

The election rallies, addressed by the leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal, the principal constituent of MGB Tejaswi Yadav and CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, witnessed an unprecedented turnout of masses, mainly comprising poor and low-income groups and raised high expectations. The RJD contested 144 seats and won 75, the Congress and the communist bloc (comprising CPI-ML lib, CPI and CPI-M) were allotted 70 and 29 seats respectively. The RJD won 75 seats, while the Congress bagged only 19 seats. The strike rate was highest for the Communist bloc bagged 16 seats – CPI(ML) Lib 12 out 19 contested, CPI two out of six and CPI(M) two out of four. In the previous legislature CPI(ML) Lib had three MLAs while the other two CPs had none. In the previous Assembly, RJD and Congress had 80 and 27 MLAs respectively. This writer thinks the reason for conspicuously better performance of the Communist bloc was that that the poor, lower middle class and subaltern people realised during the post-lockdown months that be it protest action against anti-peasantry farm legislations or maltreatment towards migrant workers, Left parties stood by them more firmly than the other MGB parties.

The NDA which won 125 out of 243 seats with BJP having won 74 seats – 30 more than what it bagged in 2015. The JD(U) managed to win. It put up candidates in 121 seats. The JDU won 43 out of 122 seats it contested in contrast to 71 it bagged in 2015.

The hard truth lies elsewhere. The JD(U) lost a lot of seats with slim margins as the Lok Janshakti Party played the spoilsport by putting up candidates in all the seats, allotted to JD(U) which lost -mostly to the RJD which snatched over 20 seats from the JD(U). The LJP chief Chirag Paswan, son of the late Ramvilas Paswan, campaigned against the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and for that did everything to cut into JD(U) votes. Sensing this beforehand, deputy CM Sushil Modi, the most important leader of BJP in Bihar, stated in several interviews and electoral campaign that Chirag Paswan and his party would damage NDA’s electoral prospects by playing as a vote katwa party and categorically stated that the LJP wasn’t a part of NDA in Bihar. Inexplicably enough, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not utter a single word against Chirag or LJP in any of his electoral speeches, The hidden motive was clear: cutting JD(U) to size and clipping the wings of Nitish Kumar in order to strengthen the hegemonic hold of saffron power in Bihar. But for queering the pitch by the LJP, the JD(U) would have performed perceptively better.

True, the Congress performed disastrously. But the party is being blamed disproportionately. Of the 70 seats, it contested, the BJP had the lead in 67 assembly segments in 2019 LS elections. Even then it won 19 seats Congress managed to win 19 of them. The Congress had to concentrate to 25 seats which it left no nerve unstrained to win. Many of seats it was allotted were BJP strongholds.

One of the very new features was the dent made by AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen), led by Asaduddin Owaisi, barrister-at-law and Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad. The party nagged five seats from Muslim dominated Seemanchal region, out of 20 seats where it fielded candidates. Actually, it has been cultivating the Muslim opinion in the region for several years and launched some socially beneficial programmes. When the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement was catching up, the party was active among the Muslim people unlike the RJD leadership that chose to be muted. When Priyanka Gandhi was supporting the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Owaisi’s party campaigned against it in Seemanchal. This paid a good dividend this time. Professor Aditya Nigam, a senior fellow at CSDS in Delhi finds The allegation that pitting the LJP against JDU apart, the other BJP strategy was to put up AIMIM as a proxy for electoral benefit. is absolutely baseless. Of the 15 seats that the AIMIM failed to win it did not get more votes than winning margin any of these seats.

Professor Aditya Nigam, nailed the canard against AIMIM. “I think we really need to get a grip on things. This has now become a standard refrain among all kinds of people, in all kinds of contexts but the fact of the matter is that in a first-past-the-post system, never can a new force emerge without destabilizing set equations and often making contests three-cornered. That’s a good thing for democracy. But apart from this general point, there is the additional one which is specific: when all parties have abandoned the Muslims or have only played cynical protection-racket-secularism politics with them, it is only natural that a force like Owaisi should emerge. I actually see that as an inescapable result of our current political crisis” Dr Sanjeev Mukherjee, ex-associate professor of political science, University of Calcutta, endorsed Nigam. “The MIM has to be seen as part of a long process of self-assertion and self-representation started by OBCs, Dalits, Adivasis etc. None of them are majorities, and now Muslims are doing the same. It’s part of the process of democratization. The next and crucial step is building alliances, for that’s indispensable in a democracy. The BJP is trying to subvert this process by inventing the Hindu identity”, he went on record.

Dipankar Bhattacharya too disagrees with the unfounded claim that Owaisi and his party are spoilers, alleged by Congress and RJD: “I don’t agree that he is a spoiler and that he is working on behalf of the BJP-RSS. The point is- it is a democracy and they are a party and they have a right to contest elections. They managed to win 5 seats. What does it say? They have an audience. They have a constituency. I think rather than blaming the AIMIM or blaming the people, we need to see what made people vote for the AIMIM. A large section of Muslims think that mainstream parties take them for granted. They think that the mainstream political parties are not concerned about their issues. So, I think rather than blaming them, we should pay more attention to the reasons that made people vote for him”

But the electoral process was not wholly free or fair at long last as there were allegedly some manipulations at the counting stage. In at least 20 seats where MGB candidates were told by concerned returning officers, suddenly postal ballots were recounted – an unprecedented step. In any counting, postal ballots are counted first. But now they were recounted all of a sudden and arbitrarily large numbers of them were rejected. For instance, the CPI candidate of Bachhwara seat was declared elected by over 800 votes. Recounting of postal ballots converted it into a defeat.

Finally, there was neither a Modi wave nor Tejaswi wave. Number votes polled by NDA was1,57,00728 against 1,56, 88 458 by MGB. The difference is 12,270.

Murzban Jal, a well-known Marx scholar, in a paper, Rethinking Secularism in India in the Age of Triumphant Fascism, published in Critique, a European journal in 2015: “In the May 2014 National Elections, the neo-conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political front of the paramilitary fascist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the National Voluntary Corps —won and took power in New Delhi. A feature of the RSS is that it explicitly bases its ideology on the construction of an imaginary Hindu Nation (what the RSS calls ‘Hindu Rashtra’). Formed in 1925 in the era of the rise of European fascism, the RSS modelled itself after Mussolini’s black shirts, and later after Nazism, especially after its ideology of racist nationalism. Its idea of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ was borrowed from the European fiction of eugenics, where nationhood was said to be not defined in terms of Constitutional Democracy and citizenship, but determined by biological descent and religious hysteria. For the RSS, secularism is something to be violently denied. After the formation of Israel, the RSS also borrowed from the racist and xenophobic Zionist ideology of nationhood that inflicts terror on its Arab neighbours. This victory of the BJP has to be seen as a seismic shift in Indian politics. Narendra Modi, who found himself crowned (as) the Prime Minister, was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat before his phantasmagorical and alarming crowning. It was he who oversaw the 2002 anti-Muslim genocide. It was also he who transformed Gujarat into a corporate managerial state with zero-degree tolerance for workers’ rights and the rights of minorities (especially Muslims) and other marginalised people.”.

The MGB experiment raises new aspirations. Let it be a new form of a popular front in a multi-structural and multi-caste social and economic system that we have in India.



Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

On Results of Bihar Assembly Elections 2020 - Statement by three Left Parties | Nov 11, 2020

Friday 13 November 2020

Press Statement

Date: November 11, 2020

The three Left Parties - Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party
of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) - have issued the
following statement:

Hailing Bihar Electorate

The Left Parties congratulate the electorate of Bihar for their support to the Mahagathbandhan, including the candidates of the Left parties, which contributed to the Mahagathbandhan putting up a spirited contest in the election against the ruling BJP-JD(U) and its government.

The response of the youth and the people to the issues concerning people’s livelihood and employment was heartening.

The difference of vote share of both the alliances is very very small. The BJP-led alliance lost 12 per cent from the vote it polled in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

Incumbent Chief Minister’s party, Janata Dal (United), won only 43 seats, as compared to the 71 it won in the last assembly election. The CM’s defection from the Mahagathbandhan to the BJP is, amongst other factors, rejected by a large section of the electorate.

The Left parties together won 16 out of the 29 seats that they contested - CPI(ML) - 12, CPI(M) - 2 and CPI - 2.

The BJP and Prime Minister Modi raised the communal agenda to a very high pitch and sought to communally polarize the electorate. This was effectively met largely by the Mahagathbandhan’s focus on the economic distress caused by the lockdown and the utter failure of the BJP and its allies in containing the pandemic and galloping unemployment.

The Left parties are of the opinion that there were certain clear irregularities during the last stages of the counting that need to be seriously addressed by the Election Commission. Along with other partners of the Mahagathbandhan, the Left parties will take up these matters with the Election Commission of India.

The Left parties’ presence in the Assembly will be utilized to advance the cause of the toiling people, raising crucial issues like jobs and on social/economic injustices.

The struggles to achieve these objectives shall vigorously continue.


(Sitaram Yechury) General Secretary, CPI(M)
(D. Raja) General Secretary, CPI
(Dipankar Bhattacharya), General Secretary, CPI(ML)-Liberation