Laloo’s Fall and the ‘Left’s’ Dilemma

[From Liberation, July 1997. Excerpts.]

After the Governor’s sanction to CBI for filing a chargesheet against him, Mr.Laloo Yadav has lost the moral and political legitimacy to rule Bihar. With this the demand for his resignation has become much more vocal and broad-based: all sections of the Left and also a section of JD are demanding this. By all accounts, this is the beginning of his end. In this new situation, it is imperative to make a review of the Left’s positions.

The other day a prominent left ideologue in Bihar while writing a piece in The Times of India, invoked the famous Hamletian dilemma ‘to be or not to be’, to describe the Left’s attitude towards Laloo. He wrote that if the Left had earlier erred in trusting Laloo Yadav, it will be repeating the same mistake by riding on the crest of the anti-Laloo crusade. The reason: Laloo still enjoys a substantial mass appeal and BJP is well set to fish in the troubled waters. Though he welcomed the renewed initiative of the Left, he couldn’t resolve the riddle and ended up wondering who gains if Laloo goes?

By Left he obviously meant the official Left, including his own tiny group, who have been, in the proverbial ‘more loyal to the king’ fashion, tailing after Laloo all these years.

For obvious reasons he has omitted any reference to CPI(ML). It would have been too uncomfortable for him to accept that in the course of seven years of Laloo’s rule, the CPI(ML), from the start sounded strong warnings against reposing trust in a bourgeois leader, initiated exposure campaigns of this so-called Mandal messiah, charted out its own independent course of action and spearheaded a popular movement against his misrule. For this the CPI(ML) invited the wrath of official communists who were all enamoured by Laloo’s charisma, was branded as anti-Mandal, as putting a spoke in the wheels of progress and was even accused of collaborating with communal forces to bring the downfall of social justice regime. Very few people are aware that CPI(ML) was criticised more or less along similar lines by the far-left streams of the left spectrum. Official communists as well as official anarchists -- both ended up developing organic linkages with Laloo Yadav and he used them to the hilt in defaming CPI(ML) and even physically liquidating its cadres.

History, of course, had a different design up its sleeve. As the wheel has turned a full circle, ‘the messiah of the poor’ who enthralled the national audience by his rustic ways and who proclaimed himself as the kingmaker has been proved to be the kingpin of unscrupulous scamsters whose one-point programme was to loot the government exchequer for his personal ends as well as to keep a whole brigade of his cronies in good humour. Left spokespersons as well as mediapersons, in their bid to wash their hands off Laloo for glamourising him and to conceal the fact that they were taken for a ride, are trying to show that Laloo’s degeneration came up subsequently after he developed a lot of clout and became arrogant. This is a white lie. As the facts reveal he was involved in the fodder scam even during his tenure as the leader of opposition and he indulged in full-scale operations right after assuming power. The entire public show was nothing but a smokescreen to cover his misdeeds.

His anti-feudal credentials too were bogus. The composition of his clique — the 56 accused in the scam — is quite revealing and includes the names of notorious champions of upper caste feudal interests. His overt agenda was apparently to weaken the forward caste feudal grip over Bihar polity and to contain BJP but his covert agenda was to strike a power balance between elites of backward and forward caste groups and to contain the growing revolutionary left movement in Bihar. The intelligent representatives of the Indian ruling classes did understand this covert agenda and that is the sole reason why they backed him as a counter-weight in an otherwise explosive revolutionary situation in Bihar.

However, Laloo Yadav failed to retain his hold over the backward castes and the split in the shape of Samata provided an opportunity for BJP to project an alternative plank of forward-backward balance of power. On the other hand, the CPI(ML) refused to submit to the carrot-and-stick policy of Laloo and went ahead with the popular mobilisation of rural poor and dalit social strata. Laloo’s sway over them considerably eroded. Though this has been the bloodiest period in CPI(ML)’s history in Bihar where our Party faced the wrath of upper caste feudal mobilisation in Bhojpur, the combined forward-backward power groups’ killing-spree in Siwan and MCC-PU onslaught in parts of central and south Bihar, all aided and abetted by Laloo administration, still the Party stuck to its guns and never lost a chance to bring about popular mobilisation of the rural poor against Laloo’s regime. The Party organised the biggest ever mobilisation against the scam-tainted regime, which no other political party of the opposition could match.

After seven years of rule, Laloo ended up with the weakening of his own social base as well as his political manoeuvrability and, in the process, also marginalised his own left allies and destroyed the JMM which at least had played a buffer role in checking the growth of BJP. The BJP, on the other hand, considerably increased its clout and CPI(ML) too emerged as the mainstream Left. Laloo’s abject failure in pursuing his covert agenda to its logical conclusion has been the sole reason behind his becoming irrelevant in the gameplan of the ruling classes and in no way is his so-called crusade against the ruling classes — as claimed by himself and also hinted by the Left ideologue mentioned above — responsible for his being dumped by them.

Laloo has been a demagogue par excellence. As far as his attitude towards the Left is concerned, in one of his famous statements, he described the Left as an aberration and missed no chance in publicly humiliating his very own Left allies and the red flag. If the ‘Left’ still harboured all sorts of illusions about him and reposed all trust in him, it was essentially dictated by their flawed tactical understanding of relying on such forces to bring about the democratic revolution.

The new situation marked by CBI formalising the chargesheet against Laloo Yadav in the fodder scam brought about a new political realignment for which we had been working for years. A loose confederation of 15 left and democratic parties came up on our initiative demanding Laloo’s resignation. Though CPI and some others have been forced to join this configuration, they have a very limited vision of just Laloo’s removal and they hope to return to the old family with the expectations of a better bargain from the new political dispensation. Therefore, they are participating in the alliance half-heartedly, trying to block its consolidation by all possible means including secret and unscrupulous parallel moves with some of the constituents. The alliance therefore is very fragile and temporary in nature.

Still, its emergence has led to heightened expectations from the masses who are looking for a left-democratic alternative to Laloo’s regime. This was witnessed in their spontaneous and massive support to the 48-hour bandh call. Despite the fact that CPI officially withdrew from the second day of the bandh and the CPI(ML) had virtually to undertake the entire responsibility on its own, the bandh was a resounding success. Had the CPI shown the courage to accept the ground reality and acknowledge the fact that for all practical purposes CPI(ML) has emerged as the biggest left party in Bihar, a perception which majority of the partners in the front share, the alliance would have emerged as a strong contender to BJP in Bihar politics. Though the conditions have forced them to join hands with us they have not been able to reconcile with the reality. When news analysts wrote that CPI(ML) after seven years of consistent ideological struggles has emerged as the forerunner, CPI reacted vehemently.

Be that as it may, the whole course of the movement has established beyond doubt the moral authority as well as the ideological superiority of the CPI(ML). At the same time, CPI(ML)’s capability of independent mass mobilisation on a large scale, uniting diverse kinds of forces and taking up multifarious initiatives has drawn appreciation from many quarters.

The super-revolutionaries of MCC stand totally exposed as they have openly come out in support of Laloo Yadav. Party Unity has been thrown out of the living political process. Critical junctures in the political situation provide the best proof of the essentially non-political, anarchist character of such groups.

The situation in Bihar has definitely turned in our favour. Laloo’s era is drawing to a close and CPI(ML)’s political profile has extended to the entire length and breadth of Bihar. Middle classes too have started looking up towards us with hopes. But the road is still extremely tortuous.

BJP and CPI(ML) are engaged in a ‘snake and ladder’ game in terms of outsmarting each other and in retaining the initiative in the anti-Laloo movement. The BJP has obvious advantages, being a major national party and the darling of the ruling classes. Even their minor initiatives are widely covered in print and visual media, nationwide. On the other hand, even our major initiatives go unreported. They have a firm ally in Samata whereas our ally CPI is more interested in stabbing us in the back. Still we have always tried to match them point to point and the 48-hour bandh relegated them to the background. With Advani’s rath yatra entering Bihar, BJP is planning to regain the initiative and we have called upon the people to boycott the yatra. A new round of confrontation with BJP is inevitable with Laloo’s fall and the Party has to step up its role in countering this communal menace.

Movements to force Laloo to resign are almost a daily affair in Bihar. The Party is also trying its best to consolidate the 15-party alliance and provide a programmatic orientation to whatever extent possible. We aim at retaining this alliance as an oppositional bloc vis-a-vis the new dispensation that is in the offing. But this necessitates strengthening our independent initiative along with a consistent struggle against the official Left’s ‘to be or not to be’ dilemma. If the Left is to retain its initiative in the new situation then it has to take on both the fronts of pseudo-social justice and pseudo-nationalism.