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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 48, New Delhi, November 14, 2020

2020 Bihar State Assembly Election Raises Hope of Combating Horror | Sankar Ray

Friday 13 November 2020

by Sankar Ray

The Mahagathbandhan (MGB) model in the Bihar state assembly elections has proved to be an entirely new experiment paving the way for an alternative to the rightwing Hindutva fascism. that aims at the destruction of the parliamentary democratic order. The MGB reminds one of Georgi Mikhaylovich Dimitrov, Secretary-General of Communist International – his simple and unambiguous slogan to halt Fascism and Nazism of Popular Front in Europe. Dimitrov put forward only one condition for uniting the people- unflinching opposition to Fascism and Nazism.

The election rallies, addressed by the leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal, the principal constituent of MGB Tejaswi Yadav and CPI(ML) Liberation general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya and CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, witnessed an unprecedented turnout of masses, mainly comprising poor and low-income groups and raised high expectations. The RJD contested 144 seats and won 75, the Congress and the communist bloc (comprising CPI-ML lib, CPI and CPI-M) were allotted 70 and 29 seats respectively. The RJD won 75 seats, while the Congress bagged only 19 seats. The strike rate was highest for the Communist bloc bagged 16 seats – CPI(ML) Lib 12 out 19 contested, CPI two out of six and CPI(M) two out of four. In the previous legislature CPI(ML) Lib had three MLAs while the other two CPs had none. In the previous Assembly, RJD and Congress had 80 and 27 MLAs respectively. This writer thinks the reason for conspicuously better performance of the Communist bloc was that that the poor, lower middle class and subaltern people realised during the post-lockdown months that be it protest action against anti-peasantry farm legislations or maltreatment towards migrant workers, Left parties stood by them more firmly than the other MGB parties.

The NDA which won 125 out of 243 seats with BJP having won 74 seats – 30 more than what it bagged in 2015. The JD(U) managed to win. It put up candidates in 121 seats. The JDU won 43 out of 122 seats it contested in contrast to 71 it bagged in 2015.

The hard truth lies elsewhere. The JD(U) lost a lot of seats with slim margins as the Lok Janshakti Party played the spoilsport by putting up candidates in all the seats, allotted to JD(U) which lost -mostly to the RJD which snatched over 20 seats from the JD(U). The LJP chief Chirag Paswan, son of the late Ramvilas Paswan, campaigned against the Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and for that did everything to cut into JD(U) votes. Sensing this beforehand, deputy CM Sushil Modi, the most important leader of BJP in Bihar, stated in several interviews and electoral campaign that Chirag Paswan and his party would damage NDA’s electoral prospects by playing as a vote katwa party and categorically stated that the LJP wasn’t a part of NDA in Bihar. Inexplicably enough, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not utter a single word against Chirag or LJP in any of his electoral speeches, The hidden motive was clear: cutting JD(U) to size and clipping the wings of Nitish Kumar in order to strengthen the hegemonic hold of saffron power in Bihar. But for queering the pitch by the LJP, the JD(U) would have performed perceptively better.

True, the Congress performed disastrously. But the party is being blamed disproportionately. Of the 70 seats, it contested, the BJP had the lead in 67 assembly segments in 2019 LS elections. Even then it won 19 seats Congress managed to win 19 of them. The Congress had to concentrate to 25 seats which it left no nerve unstrained to win. Many of seats it was allotted were BJP strongholds.

One of the very new features was the dent made by AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen), led by Asaduddin Owaisi, barrister-at-law and Lok Sabha MP from Hyderabad. The party nagged five seats from Muslim dominated Seemanchal region, out of 20 seats where it fielded candidates. Actually, it has been cultivating the Muslim opinion in the region for several years and launched some socially beneficial programmes. When the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) movement was catching up, the party was active among the Muslim people unlike the RJD leadership that chose to be muted. When Priyanka Gandhi was supporting the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, Owaisi’s party campaigned against it in Seemanchal. This paid a good dividend this time. Professor Aditya Nigam, a senior fellow at CSDS in Delhi finds The allegation that pitting the LJP against JDU apart, the other BJP strategy was to put up AIMIM as a proxy for electoral benefit. is absolutely baseless. Of the 15 seats that the AIMIM failed to win it did not get more votes than winning margin any of these seats.

Professor Aditya Nigam, nailed the canard against AIMIM. “I think we really need to get a grip on things. This has now become a standard refrain among all kinds of people, in all kinds of contexts but the fact of the matter is that in a first-past-the-post system, never can a new force emerge without destabilizing set equations and often making contests three-cornered. That’s a good thing for democracy. But apart from this general point, there is the additional one which is specific: when all parties have abandoned the Muslims or have only played cynical protection-racket-secularism politics with them, it is only natural that a force like Owaisi should emerge. I actually see that as an inescapable result of our current political crisis” Dr Sanjeev Mukherjee, ex-associate professor of political science, University of Calcutta, endorsed Nigam. “The MIM has to be seen as part of a long process of self-assertion and self-representation started by OBCs, Dalits, Adivasis etc. None of them are majorities, and now Muslims are doing the same. It’s part of the process of democratization. The next and crucial step is building alliances, for that’s indispensable in a democracy. The BJP is trying to subvert this process by inventing the Hindu identity”, he went on record.

Dipankar Bhattacharya too disagrees with the unfounded claim that Owaisi and his party are spoilers, alleged by Congress and RJD: “I don’t agree that he is a spoiler and that he is working on behalf of the BJP-RSS. The point is- it is a democracy and they are a party and they have a right to contest elections. They managed to win 5 seats. What does it say? They have an audience. They have a constituency. I think rather than blaming the AIMIM or blaming the people, we need to see what made people vote for the AIMIM. A large section of Muslims think that mainstream parties take them for granted. They think that the mainstream political parties are not concerned about their issues. So, I think rather than blaming them, we should pay more attention to the reasons that made people vote for him”

But the electoral process was not wholly free or fair at long last as there were allegedly some manipulations at the counting stage. In at least 20 seats where MGB candidates were told by concerned returning officers, suddenly postal ballots were recounted – an unprecedented step. In any counting, postal ballots are counted first. But now they were recounted all of a sudden and arbitrarily large numbers of them were rejected. For instance, the CPI candidate of Bachhwara seat was declared elected by over 800 votes. Recounting of postal ballots converted it into a defeat.

Finally, there was neither a Modi wave nor Tejaswi wave. Number votes polled by NDA was1,57,00728 against 1,56, 88 458 by MGB. The difference is 12,270.

Murzban Jal, a well-known Marx scholar, in a paper, Rethinking Secularism in India in the Age of Triumphant Fascism, published in Critique, a European journal in 2015: “In the May 2014 National Elections, the neo-conservative Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a political front of the paramilitary fascist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) or the National Voluntary Corps —won and took power in New Delhi. A feature of the RSS is that it explicitly bases its ideology on the construction of an imaginary Hindu Nation (what the RSS calls ‘Hindu Rashtra’). Formed in 1925 in the era of the rise of European fascism, the RSS modelled itself after Mussolini’s black shirts, and later after Nazism, especially after its ideology of racist nationalism. Its idea of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’ was borrowed from the European fiction of eugenics, where nationhood was said to be not defined in terms of Constitutional Democracy and citizenship, but determined by biological descent and religious hysteria. For the RSS, secularism is something to be violently denied. After the formation of Israel, the RSS also borrowed from the racist and xenophobic Zionist ideology of nationhood that inflicts terror on its Arab neighbours. This victory of the BJP has to be seen as a seismic shift in Indian politics. Narendra Modi, who found himself crowned (as) the Prime Minister, was the Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat before his phantasmagorical and alarming crowning. It was he who oversaw the 2002 anti-Muslim genocide. It was also he who transformed Gujarat into a corporate managerial state with zero-degree tolerance for workers’ rights and the rights of minorities (especially Muslims) and other marginalised people.”.

The MGB experiment raises new aspirations. Let it be a new form of a popular front in a multi-structural and multi-caste social and economic system that we have in India.

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