By Amaresh Misra
As suspected, the right-wing has already started raising the bogey of ‘Left-Wing’ rise in Bihar.
In a State election rally, JP Nadda, the BJP President, went as far as claiming that,
“RJD is just a mask. In reality, CPI-ML (Liberation), will benefit the most. In fact, RJD is is under the influence of Ma-Ley (popular term for CPI-ML (Liberation)”.
Nadda is being deliberately hyperbolic.
Yet, on the ground, the RJD/CPI-ML (Liberation) grouping is emerging as a major challenge for the BJP-JDU alliance. It has ‘disturbed’ the chemistry and mathematics of social polarization.
Since the defeat of RJD in 2005 and the rise of Nitish Kumar’s JDU, Bihar equations underwent a change. Lalu Yadav was reduced to the Muslim-Yadav (MY) combination.
The non-Yadav OBCs and the Mahadalits went either to Nitish or the CPI-ML (Liberation). Dalits remained with Ram Vilas Paswan, who opposed Lalu. Upper castes went to BJP, which aligned itself to Nitish.
Since 2005, the first preference of non-Yadav OBCs and Mahadalits (Musahars and others) has been Nitish. The second preference was CPI-ML (Liberation). Lalu and small caste parties came after that.
In 2010, Lalu lost again. Even a section of Muslims switched over to Nitish.
2015 was a different ball game. Lalu and Nitish joined hands. All other equations stood smashed. Surprisingly, fighting alone, CPI-ML (Liberation) secured 3 seats assembly seats.
THE CPI-ML FACTOR
It was CPI-ML’s 2015 performance that got Lalu thinking; he saw that unless he won over a section of non-Yadav OBCs and Mahadalits over, it would be difficult for him to emerge as a formidable force on his own. Lalu did not trust Nitish. His apprehensions came true when Nitish ditched RJD and formed a Govt with BJP.
In 2019 elections, RJD gave the Arrah Parliamentary seat to CPI-ML (Liberation). Despite the pro-BJP wave, ML secured more than 4 lakh votes in Arrah and stood second.
Now, in 2020 assembly elections, RJD, recognizing ML’s clout, gave the party a whopping 19 seats. On ML’s insistence, CPI and CPM got 6 and 4 respectively.
Seats of Arrah, Rohtas, Buxar and Kaimur, the old Bhojpur belt of ML, that saw intense, armed conflicts in the 70s, 80s and 90s, are being fought almost on a 50:50 basis by RJD and ML on one side and BJP-JDU on the other hand.
A similar situation prevails in the Patna-Magadh belt, which too, saw massive, armed standoffs in the 80s and 90s. Here, in wide swathes of Paliganj-Masaurhi-Maner-Phulwari-Jehanabad-Arwal-Gaya and Nawadah, the RJD-ML front has emerged as a middle peasant-small peasant-rural proletariat coalition in class terms and OBC-Dalit-Muslim formation in caste terms.
In Saran-Siwan and Tirhut, pitched battles were fought between ML and landlords in 90s, in which Chandrashekhar, the JNU President from AISA (ML’s student wing), who belonged to Siwan, was gunned down. In 2020, in this belt, the RJD-ML have formed a formidable alliance of Dalits-Muslims and OBCs and are contesting seats in tandem.
CPI-ML has a good presence in the Samastipur-Begusarai–the traditional Left bastion of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s–belt as well. CPM-CPI are also contesting here as part of the Mahagathbandhan. In several seats of the area, the three parties of the Left are directly combating the BJP alliance.
Congress is fighting mostly in the Darbhanga area and Seemanchal (East Bihar), which is close to the Bengal border. Even in Seemanchal, ML has a presence in Katihar and Purnea. ML has won seats consistently in Katihar. Congress-RJD and ML are jointly in a fight here against BJP-JDU.
CHANGING CASTE-CLASS DYNAMICS
Overall, the coming of ML in Mahagathbandhan has given RJD a strong entry into the non-Yadav, Mahadalit segment. On the other hand, ML has got access to the middle and rich, anti-BJP peasants. With ML firmly with RJD, Muslims who used to vote for Nitish, are forced to re-think their position and are gravitating towards the Mahagathbandhan.
It is this that gives BJP the jitters; having lost Jharkhand, if they fail to form a majority Government in Bihar, their goose is cooked in 2021, Bengal.
Since communal polarization is not working, anti-ML sentiments will be whipped up; but with classic class antagonisms coming to the fore, and getting intertwined with Post-Covid class fractures, even upper castes, especially Bhumihaars and Brahmins, considered staunch BJP voters, will vote for RJD-ML is some seats. Earlier, in the 90s, few Rajputs used to side with RJD. With UP Rajputs behind BJP, the latter is expecting total Rajput votes. This might not happen.
As for now, only Kurmis are voting en bloc for BJP-JDU.
The situation is volatile and in flux.
BJP is getting nervous and desperate.
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