Parliamentary Elections in Bihar, 1996

[From Liberation, June 1996.]

This time total valid votes polled in the state were 3,49,44,438 and this was 53.3 lakhs more than 1991. Janata Dal, which had fielded 44 candidates this time as against 33 in 1991, got 1,67,69,081 votes. In terms of absolute number this was 17,32,671 more than in 1991 but its percentage went down from 34.1 to 30.7. BJP, on the other hand, fielded only 32 candidates as against 49 last time. Not only did its total votes increase, the percentage too went up from 16.91 in 1991 to 20.77 this time. Samata Party, which was part of JD last time, fought in alliance with BJP and its 22 candidates polled 14.28 per cent of votes.

The only other party which increased its votes as well as the percentage was CPI(ML). This time it polled 7,31,000-plus votes out of 22 seats it contested. This is nearly 1 lakh 50 thousand more than the votes polled in 1991 from 17 seats. In the 15 common seats that we contested on both the occasions, this time we polled nearly 80,000 more votes and the rest 70,000 came from the other 7 seats, out of which 6 were contested for the first time and one Patna seat was recontested after 1989. The vote percentage marginally went up from 2.02% to 2.14%.

Congress was the biggest loser. Its votes went drastically down and the percentage fell to 12.40 from 23.89 in 1991. JMM which had polled over 13 lakh votes in 1991, got only half of that this time and its percentage went down from 4.83 to 1.85. CPI lost four seats and its votes from 8 seats it contested went down by over two lakhs from earlier 22 lakhs. In terms of percentage the fall was from 8.09 to 5.78 this time. CPI(M) which had polled 4 lakh 18 thousand votes in 1991 from two seats got only 2 lakh 76 thousand votes this time from the same two seats. In terms of percentage the fall was from 1.54 to 0.79.

Regionwise analysis of our Partyís performance shows gains in North Bihar, mixed performance in Central Bihar and decline in South Bihar.

In the Northern part, in a last minute decision, we decided to contest Muzaffarpur fielding Comrade Meena Tiwari as our candidate. She is the Party secretary there and had taken charge only a few months back. Though we polled nearly 2,648 votes, the vigorous election campaign in the area has given a new lease of life to the Party there. The spectre of Mushari has again started haunting the landlords there. Immediately after election, they, in connivance with some degenerated SNS groupís men (now operating under the banner of TND group), killed one of our promising comrades who had recently joined the Party from the TND group and played an active role in resisting the booth capturing by upper caste Samata goons. The killing gave rise to wide protests and the Sankalpa Sabha was attended by thousands of people. Class contradictions are sharpening once again in Mushari and both sides have begun preparations for the impending class war.

Earlier we had planned to contest Darbangha seat where we command a wider social base and could have scored at least 10,000-plus votes but due to certain organisational complications the district committee was not in favour of contesting. Thus, we dropped the idea and chose Muzaffarpur instead, as some sort of Party assertion in North Bihar was considered imperative.

In the north-eastern part, in Katihar parliamentary seat we doubled our votes from 4,621 to 9,934 this time. The Party had to launch a serious ideological struggle against the tendency of avoiding the contest in parliamentary elections and concentrating exclusively in Barsoi assembly seat. It appears that a Muslim social base, particularly middle and rich sections of them in Barsoi opt for a dual role of supporting powerful Muslim mainstream candidate in the parliament elections ó this time Tariq Anwar of Congress(I) ó whereas they extend support to our candidate in the assembly elections. In the absence of a powerful Party organisation this pressure tells on our comrades there and is the root cause behind the reluctance to contest the parliamentary election. We decided to seriously combat this opportunism as the primary condition for building Party organisation there, the votes secured were mainly of dalits and this had laid the foundation for the Partyís independent base there. The State Committee had made plans to organise a regional committee of Purnea-Katihar district and deployed a senior comrade to reorganise the work in these areas.

In Balia (Begusarai), the other North-East Bihar constituency where we contested for the first time, we polled 7,642 votes. The problems of organisational disunity has still not been fully resolved there though in elections comrades unitedly worked for Com.Yogeshwar Gope whose candidature helped the party to reach the widest sections of people.

In the north-western zone, comrades in Siwan fought a heroic battle against the heavily armed goons of JD Mafia don Sahabuddin. Five of our sympathisers laid down their lives defending the booths and at least two goons died in fierce resistance. Sahabuddin, with the active connivance of the district administration, captured over 500 booths in the entire constituency. This was mainly in three assembly segments where we didnít have organisational network. In Mairwan segment, he failed to capture a single booth. In Darauli too there was tough resistance but they succeeded in capturing some 50 booths in one part of the constituency. On the election day, the whole of Siwan was virtually turned into a battlefield and it was for the first time that Sahabuddin met with stiff resistance. From 20,000 in 1991, we polled 1,09,000-plus votes this time.

In Gopalganj and Bagha parliamentary constituencies, we contested for the first time and polled 22,000-plus and 15,672 votes. In Betia (West Champaran), however, we polled only 4,368 votes.

In central Bihar, our votes went up in Ara, Jehanabad and Buxar constituencies. The total increase from these three major constituencies from 1991 comes to around 78,000. In Bikramganj, another important constituency, our votes declined by over 4,000, in Barh by nearly 1,000 and in Sasaram by nearly 2,000 votes. Sharp decline was however witnessed in Aurangabad where we lost nearly 24,000 votes and also in Nalanda where the decline was to the extent of 34,000 votes.

In Ara constituency, quite unexpectedly, our votes declined in two assembly segments of Ara and Budahara. JD scored 46,000 votes more than us and Samata too backed by the combined weight of upper castes as well as sections of Kurmi-Koeri backwards scored 5,000 votes more than us.

In Jehanabad, in Masaurhi segment of Patna district our performance improved a lot compared to 1995 assembly elections. This was essentially due to the consolidation of votes of landless and poor peasants. Even the dalit support base of Party Unity in many villages, for the first time, voted for our Party.

The shortfall in Bikramganj was mainly due to drastic decline in Karakat assembly segment where the feudal forces were on the offensive. In Hilsa segment of Nalanda, we have still not been able to recoup. Still, this time we organised a good campaign among Muslims in Biharshariff and obtained support from sections of them in an otherwise highly surcharged and heavily polarised voting between Samata (George) and JD-backed CPI.

In Aurangabad, our organisation is still passing through serious disorders and except for one or two assembly segments, the organisation stands virtually dismantled in the face of MCC killings and internal disturbances.

In all these areas however, special measures have already been initiated to revitalise the Party organisation.

In Patna proper, in the 1991 by-elections we supported CPI against JD which had polled 25,000 votes. On our own we polled 15,000-plus votes this time. The Party work in rural segments of the constituency had suffered a setback and due to shifting of forces for Ara and Jehanabad, not much attention could be paid to these areas. In the city, quite an effective campaign was organised and our comrades valiantly resisted state-sponsored booth capturing. Comrade Saroj Choubey, CCM, was severely assaulted by police when comrades protested against illegal detention of other comrades.

In South Bihar, from Gaya onwards our performance remained quite poor. Our votes declined by 10,000 each in Hazaribagh and Koderma constituencies and in Dhanbad too, where we contested for the first time, we could poll only 5500 votes.

Our recent initiatives on Jharkhand movement didnít translate in enlarging our support base and ironically all pro-Jharkhand parties were virtually wiped out. The contest was mainly confined between BJP and JD, both of which are anti-Jharkhand. BJP virtually swept the polls in South Bihar.

This raises an important debate about the continued relevance of Jharkhand movement or at least its continuation in its old forms.

We did take a calculated risk by rejecting electoral pragmatism in deciding about candidates and fielded candidates more with the view to strengthen Party organisation and Partyís social base.

Election results have shown serious cracks in JDs social base and voices of dissent have started raising themselves within JD. Internal crisis within CPI and CPI(M) too has intensified.

This provides great opportunity to us to make bold advances to influence and win over these sections. The BJP-Samata combine is in an upbeat mood and a fierce competition lies ahead.

The Party state committee shall have to take vigorous political initiative on all fronts and this is the time to pool the collective energy of the entire rank and file in general and leaders in particular. In Bihar, times ahead are stormy but full of opportunities.