Bihar’s Unstoppable Battle for Change

The first anniversary of the UPA was eventually marked by a series of explosions, actual as well as political. After years of relative peace, on 22 May evening the capital experienced a couple of major convulsions as bombs went off in two cinema halls screening the controversial film ‘Jo Bole So Nihaal’. And before the country could come to grips with this tragedy, came the news of a farce from Bihar . The State Assembly which had been constituted only notionally, with MLAs yet to be administered their oaths of allegiance to the Constitution, was dissolved in an utterly intriguing fashion. An emergency meeting of the Union Cabinet was held at the dead of the night to recommend dissolution of the Bihar Assembly and the President of India, who was away from the country on a foreign trip, reportedly sent his approval from faraway Moscow !

The immediate basis on which Governor Buta Singh cried foul was developments within the LJP. The party was fast disintegrating and as required under the amended anti-defection law, two-thirds of LJP MLAs were readying for a merger with the JD(U). Most of the MLAs involved in this move had already assembled in a resort in NDA-ruled Jharkhand and the dissolution of the Assembly thus pre-empted an impending merger of the breakaway MLAs of LJP with the JD(U) and the claim the NDA would have made on the strength of these added numbers to form the next government in Bihar. While the Governor raised the issue of horse-trading, the concerned LJP MLAs had long been known to be veering around this option and, following the rejection of his formula for formation of a UPA government led by a Muslim Chief Minister, Paswan himself had warned about the possibility of an NDA government.

It was well known from the beginning that most of Paswan’s MLAs were quite receptive to NDA’s overtures. While promoting ‘Project Ramvilas’, and tying up with the LJP during the elections, the Congress had initially chosen to ignore this underlying political reality. But of late the Congress had been changing tack to strike a rapprochement with the RJD and some of Buta Singh’s recent steps clearly reflected this shift in the Congress’ approach. The transfer of the DMs of Siwan and Gopalganj and the appointment of a bureaucrat known for his proximity to Lalu Prasad as chief advisor to the Governor were two loud indications. On his part, Ram Vilas Paswan too had started softening his stance towards the RJD, agreeing not only to share power with the RJD but also to accept a Muslim candidate from the RJD as Chief Minister. The softening of Paswan’s position only hastened the disintegration of his flock.

Only months ago, Paswan had been projected as the emerging political alternative in Bihar . Now as Bihar reluctantly readies for fresh elections, most media analysts have started writing his obituary. In the process the polity in Bihar is being sought to be regimented along strictly bipolar lines between the RJD/UPA and the JD(U)/NDA. Concerted attempts are on to dismiss the issues that had dominated the last elections and pooh-pooh the popular yearning for a non-RJD non-NDA option that fetched such hefty dividends for Paswan. The Left must resist this attempt to straitjacket Bihar politics between two competing camps of the Indian bourgeoisie and their feudal-kulak allies. It must be understood that any attempt to separate the question of secularism from the pressing questions of corruption, criminalisation, hunger and anti-poor violence is only bound to shore up the electoral prospects of the NDA in Bihar .

At a time when the RJD remains badly dented and discredited because of its long record of betrayal, when the LJP’s pretensions have been brutally exposed and when the Congress remains as confused and clueless about the future as ever, the Left must vigorously assert its political platform as the most consistent and reliable bulwark of secularism, democracy and socio-economic transformation. If the CPI and CPI(M) once again fail to see reason, and side with the RJD and the UPA, they will actually be guilty of inviting the political disaster they claim to be fighting in collaboration with the latter. While strengthening the independent political mobilization of the rural poor, and forging closer ties with the middle sections, we must therefore try our best to secure a broad-based fighting unity of the Left in Bihar .