How do you Solve a Problem called Bihar ?

The interim order of the Supreme Court has once again highlighted the perpetual dilemma of India ’s ruling elite: how do you govern Bihar – how do you manage the utterly unruly State?  That the vaunted values of constitutionalism and rule of law never operate in Bihar society at large was already well-known; now the court tells us they do not apply even in the highest fora of governance — the assembly and the Governor’s house, with the Union Cabinet also acting in unholy collusion.  But to give the devil his due, one must at least partially concede a point raised by Buta Singh: he merely recommended, Delhi decided. And remember that in taking the decision, the present Congress leadership merely followed a tradition set by our most illustrious prime ministers from the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty since the 1950s.  Well, if you expected them to be a bit more cautious after they were left with bleeding nose not so long ago over an abortive attempt to install a UPA government in Jharkhand, you were wrong.  The leopard will not change its hue.  As in that case (and as on many other occasions too), the Congress has once again managed to help the saffron brigade stake a stronger claim to power – this time in Bihar .

The parliamentary left, however, persistently refuses to see this. In the name of isolating the BJP, it continues to lean upon and trail behind the Congress and/or other UPA partners except in their base States (the CPI’s present electoral tactics in Bihar is only a particular variant of this practice in a very particular situation). Thus at the time of dissolution of the Bihar assembly the CPI and the CPI(M) had, perfectly in tune with the Congress leadership, the RJD supremo and the Bihar Governor, justified that move even as we condemned it as a fraud, a farce foisted on the people of Bihar.  Now that the apex court has held the dissolution malafide and unconstitutional, political propriety demands that they should either oppose this ruling or acknowledge that their earlier position was mistaken. They have done neither. The general secretaries of both the CPI and the CPI(M) in their statements passed all the blame on to the Bihar Governor, and to Article 356 generally, trying to shield the central authority in this specific case. Another central leader of the CPI even said those who criticise the centre are politicising the issue!

But the people of Bihar have eyes to see through all these political chicanery, to see who actually stands behind bad boy Buta.  They will not also forget which left party stood away from the left-sponsored 24 May Bihar bandh demanding the removal of the Governor. The UPA (plus the CPI (M), if you choose to consider it separately) in Bihar is therefore visibly on the defensive. As part of a crisis management initiative, the PM emerged from the Chandigarh consultations with a cautiously worded acknowledgement of the centre’s responsibility, saving the removal of the Governor, it seems, for a more opportune moment.  The other UPA or alternative UPA for Bihar , (comprising the LJP and the CPI in the main) is not in an enviable position either.  Paswan had claimed to himself the ‘credit’ for spoiling the prospects of RJD and NDA — for imposition of President’s rule in other words — and now he cannot easily avoid the discredit and discomfiture associated with the new turn of events.  While putting up a brave face, he has commented that the SC should not have pronounced the order at this juncture.

On the other side of the fence, a recharged NDA is striving to make the best possible use of the court order, though its holier-than-thou attitude cuts little ice given its not-so-superb track record in matters of democracy and clean politics.  Desperate for the power that seemed to just slip out of their hands on May 23, the hungry challengers will go to any length for the kill.  So will defenders RJD, whose supremo can now see for himself, for the first time in fifteen years, a very strong likelihood of losing power.  The net effect is going to be a more polarised polling — probably more violent too — the true representatives of the downtrodden being the common target of both the dominant class-caste groups and of the notoriously biased, criminalised administration.

But the downtrodden are standing up.  In the last elections they held up the revolutionary communists as their foremost representatives in Bihar ; this time around they are determined to do it on a larger scale.  This is why the popular masses feel relieved that another farce has not been imposed upon them in the shape of an abrupt judicial end to the electoral process. They do not wish to leave their fate to be decided by some ‘experts’ or professional manipulators or the courts, they are eager to fight it out for themselves.

And they are determined to fight not just for their burning immediate demands, but for a new Bihar in a new India .  The SC order has served to expose some of the deeper ironies of our state system as a whole. The President as the custodian of the Constitution makes an official pronouncement that is declared unconstitutional by the apex court which, unable to take an appropriate remedial measure, grudgingly approves an electoral process that has as its origin a blatant violation of the Constitution!  Such basic paradoxes cannot be solved within constitutional parameters — not surely, in the present case, by restoring the assembly.  The solution lies only in an intensified movement for total transformation. And it is as a part of this larger, longer, uninterrupted war that the toiling masses of Bihar and their communist vanguards are fighting the battle of ballots.  Here alone, in the enormous creative potential of revolutionary mass movement, lies the solution to the problem called Bihar , nay, Bharat.