Bihar 2010

Bihar has delivered a stunning verdict. An outgoing government returning to power with 85% majority is a very rare phenomenon in the history of parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world. That such a thing has happened now in the state of Bihar which has been known for the presence of the widest spectrum of political forces in the legislative arena is indeed quite remarkable.
In a house of 243, the NDA has increased its tally from 143 to 206, with the BJP accounting for nearly 60% of the increase. Consequently, the entire opposition has been virtually driven out of the Assembly. The RJD’s tally has come down from 54 to 22, and its new-found ally LJP which had independently won 9 seats in the last elections, finds itself reduced to just three seats despite the RJD’s backing. The Congress which fought the elections with the call of forming a Congress-led government finished with a tally of only four seats. And for the first time since 1990, the CPI(ML), the consistent Left opposition in Bihar Assembly, would go completely unrepresented.
Evidently, the verdict reveals an overwhelming and overarching social shift in favour of Nitish Kumar’s promise of development. Bihar certainly does not want to go back – neither to Lalu Prasad nor to the Congress. What triggered this huge social shift were signs of restoration of ‘law and order’ and hope of some delivery of change and development in a state which seemed to have come to an absolute standstill. And facilitating this shift was the good old formula of caste engineering that invoked and energised all those social identities that felt excluded or suppressed during Lalu Prasad’s once dominant and protracted reign of ‘social justice’. 
The contradictions written into Nitish Kumar’s model of development, and the contrast between the rude reality and the heady rhetoric, are yet to forcefully come to the surface. The CPI(ML) was perhaps the only party to challenge Nitish Kumar on the very question of development. The party’s election campaign focussed boldly on the battle between the two contending concepts and modes of development – the dominant neo-liberal model that reinforces the semi-feudal order and uses ‘development’ only to facilitate and camouflage a relentless exploitation of cheap labour in and away from Bihar versus an alternative democratic model that lends primacy to the basic rights of the toiling people and the agenda of all-round development of productive forces within Bihar. This is surely the emerging battle ahead and the revolutionary Left will have to rebuild itself in the course of this all important battle.
Media analysts are clearly mesmerised by the scale and sweep of the Nitish Kumar phenomenon. The same people who till recently celebrated the Lalu spectacle as the ultimate show of subaltern politics and rubbished communists for not comprehending the reality of ‘caste’ are now busy preaching ‘development’ as the new mantra of politics. Revolutionary communists fought the ‘magic of social justice’ with the logic of class struggle and the banner of social transformation. They will also challenge the euphoria of Nitish Kumar’s ‘politics of development’ by pressing ahead with the arduous course of class struggle and boldly upholding the banner of people’s rights and democracy. The surge of developmental aspirations of the hard working people of Bihar is real and this has now put Nitish on trial.
As far as the CPI(ML)’s poll performance is concerned, in February 2005, the CPI(ML) had polled a little over 600,000 votes and won seven seats, its highest  tally till date. In November 2005, the party had lost two seats and some 50,000 votes to finish with a tally of five seats and nearly 560,000 votes. In the 2010 elections, the party has lost all its seats even as it polled more than half a million votes. The rise and growth of the Nitish phenomenon has clearly taken a toll and blunted the winning edge of the party even in its strongholds. The party has of course begun exposing and challenging the new regime right on the issue of development and all its emerging trappings in Bihar including rampant loot, emerging authoritarian rule and utter deprivation of the masses. The party will now have to summon all its courage and determination to take this battle deeper and wider.

In India’s parliamentary history, stunning electoral outcomes and euphoric majorities have often proved to be a prelude to major upsurges of mass struggles. Recall Indira Gandhi’s spectacular rise in 1971, Rajiv Gandhi’s extraordinary majority in 1984, the AIADMK’s clean sweep in Tamil Nadu in 1991 and the sweeping victory of the CPI(M) in West Bengal just the other day in 2006 and we know how quickly majorities can melt into thin air in the heat of mass struggles. The message of the 2010 elections for the revolutionary Left is therefore loud and clear: go deep among the people, resume hard work and prepare for the future. Let us turn the developmental aspirations of the people into a powerful political struggle for real development.