The JD(U)-BJP split : Opportunities and challenges for the Left in Bihar
The JD(U)-BJP alliance has finally come to an end. According to Nitish Kumar, the alliance was no longer tenable and the time had come when it had to be ‘sacrificed’ for the sake of ‘principle’. What triggered this sudden pang of ‘principle’ was the elevation of Modi as the chief of the BJP’s poll campaign for the coming Lok Sabha elections and the tame surrender of Advani.
If it is a matter of ‘principle’ now for Nitish Kumar, clearly he has a thoroughly opportunist yardstick to measure it. Nitish Kumar has no problem with the BJP. He has shared power with it at the Centre and then in Bihar since 2005. He has no problem with Narendra Modi either. He had never said anything when Narendra Modi’s government orchestrated the Gujarat genocide in 2002. It now turns out that while inaugurating a railway project in Gujarat in 2003, Nitish Kumar as union railway minister had even foreseen a greater role for ‘Narendrabhai’ in the service of the nation. Even in 2009 Nitish Kumar had no problem flashing the victory sign together with Narendra Modi in an NDA meeting in Punjab.
Clearly Nitish Kumar’s assessment is that while initially he needed the BJP to gain and consolidate power in Bihar, he could now afford to come out of the BJP’s embrace and chart his own course. While striking deals with the Congress over ‘special category status’ for Bihar, he also seems ready to contribute to the chorus for a ‘federal front’ by reaching out to his counterparts in Odisha and West Bengal. On June 12, while a JD(U) emissary was present at the Naveen Patnaik show in Delhi demanding ‘special status’ for Odisha, another JD(U) leader came to Kolkata to have a talk with Mamata Banerjee.
There is also a pressing need for Nitish Kumar to seek a new context for himself in Bihar. He is aware that the social and political coalition that catapulted him to power was born under extraordinary circumstances and cannot be sustained for any indefinite length of time. In February 2005 he emerged as a key player but without a clear mandate. In November 2005 he got a mandate to usher in ‘regime change’ in a chaotic and stagnant Bihar. In 2010 he played on the danger of a possible return of Lalu Prasad, but what fetched him a bigger mandate was Bihar’s aspiration for development.
But now in 2013 when the dream of development has visibly begun to turn sour, and social oppression, police repression and the highhandedness of a corrupt bureaucracy have become the hallmarks of his government, Nitish Kumar evidently needs to shift the goalpost. Hence his sudden rediscovery of the secular principle! And for those who are seeking to draw an analogy between VP Singh of 1990 and Nitish Kumar of 2013, let us not forget that while VP Singh sacrificed his government at the Centre by parting ways with the BJP, Nitish Kumar has the comfort of playing the ‘secular’ card without risking the safety of his government.
The 19 June trust vote corroborated Nitish Kumar’s calculation regarding the safety of his government. Manmohan Singh was quick to issue a ‘secular’ certificate for Nitish Kumar and the four Congress MLAs voted for Nitish Kumar as did the lone CPI MLA and four of the six independents. While the BJP and RJD dared the JD(U) to seek a fresh mandate, an arrogant Nitish Kumar claimed that it was he who possessed the mandate to rule. Does the trust vote pattern indicate a political realignment in Bihar? Early signs do indicate a pattern: the BJP has been pushed into the opposition, the Congress has the benefit of both the ruling JD(U) and opposition RJD trying to keep it in good humour, while the CPI has once again shown its readiness to join hands with the ruling party.
The fact that the ruling alliance has come apart under the weight of its own unsustainable opportunism is certainly welcome and the Left must use this welcome turn of events to intensify the ongoing struggles on the host of people’s issues and sharpen and strengthen its own intervention in the increasingly competitive political situation of Bihar. It must be understood that the Left in Bihar did not come together only to oppose the impact of central policies on Bihar – the joint actions of the Left in Bihar have primarily been directed against the policies and measures of the Bihar government, against the latter’s comprehensive failure and betrayal in keeping its poll promises and fulfilling the demands of the people.
At every turn of event and on every issue of importance, the Nitish Kumar government has proved to be a handmaiden of the feudal forces and if the BJP has succeeded in almost doubling its strength in Bihar Assembly, it is very much a result of Nitish Kumar’s politics of appeasement of feudal-communal forces in Bihar. This historical reality cannot be erased by the belated and opportunist JD(U)-BJP break-up. Moreover, with the BJP pushed into the opposition space, opposition politics will become much more competitive in Bihar and the Left will have to assert its agenda by intervening in this competition with all its strength. It must be understood that this is an important part of the Left’s battle against the BJP in this new phase in Bihar.
The Odisha model where a section of the Left ran into the embrace of Naveen Patnaik the moment he severed ties with the BJP must serve as a negative reference point for the Left in Bihar. The Odisha model may have helped the CPI win a Lok Sabha seat with the blessing of the ruling party but today Odisha is a hotbed of corporate plunder and the people are forced to fight hard against the government that the CPI continues to support. The future of understanding and cooperation between the CPI and CPI(ML) will depend on the course the CPI takes vis-a-vis the JD(U) and the Nitish Kumar government.
The Left ranks in Bihar need not learn only from Odisha. The CPI has its own experience in Bihar to learn from. The early 1970s were a period of great advance for the CPI in Bihar but the Emergency era blunder of partnership with Indira Gandhi stunted its growth and discredited its politics. After years of determined anti-feudal struggle, when the Congress was ousted from power, the CPI once again repeated the blunder by getting into an uncritical alliance with Lalu Prasad. By the time the party leadership woke up to the danger of this perilous partnership, it was too late and the CPI could never regain the strength, credibility and initiative it once enjoyed in Bihar.
Now that Nitish Kumar has been forced to end the extraordinary and unsustainable alliance in Bihar, the political situation in the state has surely opened up. The revolutionary Left must take the fullest advantage of the new situation to rejuvenate the resistance of the working people, sharpen the struggle on every question of democracy, justice and development and forcefully intervene in the developing ideological-political churning in the society in Bihar. The people of Bihar will not shed tears over the BJP’s exit from power, but there is no way the people can condone the betrayal by the Nitish Kumar government of the interests of the toiling masses of Bihar and of the very aspiration for ‘development with justice’. With the ruling alliance broken through the middle, now is the opportune time for the people to corner the government and boldly carry forward the battle for land and agrarian reforms, pro-people development and the whole gamut of people’s rights.
Nyay Sammelan at Patna
CPI(ML) held a Conference for Justice (Nyay Sammelan) on June 20 at the Bharatiya Nritya Kala Mandir in Patna to protest against the injustice and police oppression on dalits, poor, women, adivasis and minorities and to demand justice and democratic rights for them. In addition to Party activists, the Conference was attended in large numbers by leaders of other Left and democratic Parties, intellectuals from the State, citizens and members of society at large.
Four fact-finding missions had visited various sites of massacre, police repression and violence against women and talked to survivors. The Bihar State Committee of the Party compiled the findings of these teams into a report ‘Bihar Mein Jaari Hai Nyaay ke Sanhaar ke Khilaf Sangharsh’ (Struggle Against the Ongoing Massacre of Justice in Bihar). The report, released at the Nyay Sammelan, deals with various aspects of injustice with specific examples: justice for massacre survivors, justice for women victims of sexual violence, justice for Muslim youth and ongoing struggles for people’s rights.
Addressing the Conference CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said that the purpose of the conference was to discuss the multiple questions related to justice. The attitude of injustice and oppression adopted by the Nitish government towards dalits, poor people, women, adivasis and minorities has raised significant questions regarding justice and democracy in the State. Nitish’s boast of putting an end to carnages in the State has been a cruel joke. Comrade Dipankar said that Nitish Kumar must explain what the heinous killings at Forbesganj were if not a carnage? Far from putting an end to carnages, the Nitish government has killed justice by acquitting the perpetrators of massacres and carnages.
The Party has been carrying on a series of movements against injustice and oppression for the past one year and will continue the widespread fight on the streets as well as in the courts for justice for the victims of carnages. Com. Dipankar said that Nitish was a past master in the ruling class skill of spreading deceptions but the Left parties would not be taken in by this pretence of secularism and must rather expose these false claims. After serving the interests of the communal BJP for 17 years in Bihar, Nitish is now getting a certificate of secularism from the Congress which has its own sorry record of opportunist compromise with communal forces. He said that it augurs well for the people’s struggle that the Nitish-BJP alliance founded on opportunism has broken up for reasons of its own. He stated that the CPI’s vote in support of the Nitish Government in the trust vote was its own internal decision. The time has come, he said, for the people to intensify the struggle on these burning issues and the Left’s priority must be to champion this struggle and emerge as the chief opposition in the State, keeping the BJP out from government as well opposition.
Speakers at the Conference sharply condemned the State-sponsored oppression of Muslim youth in Seemanchal and Mithilanchal under the pretext of fighting terrorism, and the increasing incidences of violence against women and children in the State. They stressed that the shameful silence of the government on these heinous crimes showed its undemocratic, anti-minority and anti-women character, and reaffirmed the commitment of the Left and democratic Parties to struggle against such injustice and oppression. Along with Comrade Dipankar Bhattarcharya, the Conference for Justice was addressed by CPI(ML) Polit Bureau member Com. Dhirendra Jha, AIPWA General Secretary Com. Meena Tiwari, State committee member Com. Sudama Prasad, Bihar President of the Indian National League Haji Niyaz Ahmad Atish, CPI(M) Secretariat member Com. Sarvoday Sharma, former State secretary of CPI Dr. Badrinarayan Lal, Forward Bloc leader Ukil Thakur, civil liberties campaigner Kishori Das, journalist Riyaj Azimabadi, (Bathani Tola carnage survivor Naeemuddin Ansari, AISA leader from Katira Dalit hostel (Ara) Sivprakash, leader of contractual teachers’ movement Pradeep Kumar Pappu, and Nagari massacre survivor Uma Yadav. On behalf of the presidium, All India Kisan Mahasabha General Secretary Com. Rajaram Singh conducted the proceedings, and Comrade Rajaram extended a vote of thanks. Other members of the presidium included CPI(ML) Central Committee member KD Yadav, AIPWA Bihar State secretary Com. Shashi Yadav, and Advocate Javed Ahmed.
The conference assumed added significance in the changed political situation - while Nitish Kumar is trying to brush aside the record of failure and betrayal of his government, the conference highlighted the need for united and determined struggle for justice and people’s rights. While the BJP and JD(U) are accusing each other of betraying the mandate, the fact is both had been partners in betraying the people’s aspiration for development and justice.