BIHAR: Nitish Kumar’s Political Opportunism & Challenges for Alternate Politics

Arun Kumar Mishra

ANNOUNCING the comeback of Modi in the next general election in 2019, Nitish Kumar declaring that nobody can teach him secularism,  took office of the chief ministership of Bihar sixth time in a row, ditching one ally after another.

Nobody quarrels with Nitish for his song of invincibility for Modi but his bragging about secularism is nothing but shamelessness of high order. CPI(M) has clearly stated in its statement that one who joins the Modi bandwagon in the present political scenario, supports the mob lynching and the growing attacks on minorities, dalits and women and becomes the willing tool of implementing the RSS agenda.

There are two streams of so-called social justice plank in Bihar – one is represented by Nitish Kumar and the other by Lalu Prasad –  both have politically degenerated to such an extent that Lalu Prasad has become the symbol of corruption and Nitish Kumar has surrendered before the RSS and the BJP.

In his 17 years of political alliance with the BJP, Nitish Kumar has allowed this city based party to spread its tentacles in the rural areas and consolidate its organisational structure through communal polarisation. On the other hand, Lalu Prasad wasted his initial militancy for backward caste assertion and non-compromising attitude towards the BJP. He got embroiled in one corruption after another.

The 10 year BJP and JD(U) rule in Bihar was hailed as a golden decade of good governance and development. In the era of neo-liberalism, development index is measured through GDP growth. Bihar did grow accordingly. The growth can be attributed to the construction of roads and bridges, real-estate boom and flowing of central funds for various schemes and projects. Nitish Kumar also took some popular measures like distribution of bicycles among girl students and later on boys were also included and reservation for women and OBCs in local governments from panchayat to district levels. It provided him an opportunity to broaden his social base. But the two issues have totally exposed the class nature and compromising attitude of the Nitish Kumar government.

Nitish Kumar instituted a land reform commission under the chairmanship of D Bandyopadhyay and when the commission placed the report before the government, the entire capitalist landlord parties form within the government and outside threatened it with dire consequences if it tries to implement the recommendations made by the commission. Nitish Kumar meekly surrendered to save his government. The common school system commission report met the same fate.

The reservation for women and OBC’s was implemented without changing the feudal structure and entrenched patriarchy in the state. It has made the elected representatives from weaker sections as a tool of feudal elements and they are forced to carry out the dictates of the high and middle caste feudal elements.

It is the same with the women representatives who have been elected in large numbers due to 50 per cent reservation for them in local bodies, but the grip of patriarchy is so strong that husbands take the decision on behalf of their elected wives.

Bihar ranks lowest on social index. A recent survey reveals the serious problem of malnutrition among children and women of the state. It shows that the benefits of food security, public distribution system, integrated child development project have not percolated to the poorer sections of the society. The much touted three decimal land to the landless people is a non-starter. There is no industrialisation worth the name in the state in the last 12-year rule of Nitish led government. Agriculture, the backbone of economic activity in Bihar, is beset with severe crisis. The peasants of Bihar owe 40 crores of loan to the usurers and the banks.

Demonetisation which was wholeheartedly supported by Nitish Kumar has severely affected the Bihar economy. According to an estimate about 50,000 workers were forced to return back home as they lost their jobs in different states. It is well known that remittances have made the lives easier for the rural poor but the demonetisation badly affected this source of sustenance.

Failure of Nitish Kumar government in the field of education and health is unpardonable. Both these sectors have practically been privatised as the government education and public health services are gasping for breath. 80 per cent people depend on government education and public health services. As both are in shambles, people have no choice but to look towards private institutions where they are forced to cough up fat amount of money, pushing them into perpetual poverty.

The 12-year rule of Nitish Kumar is also known for its anti-democratic and repressive policies. During this period, his government ignored all the movements and never met the representatives of these movements to sort out their problems.

Agitating teachers, scheme workers, home guards, cooks, contract workers were lathicharged and their demands were not fulfilled. The communal propaganda and the tension created thereafter in Bhagalpur, Araria, Chapra, Muzaffarpur, was not curbed and the administration remained a mute spectator as the RSS and Bajrang Dal had a field day. One can only imagine the dangerous situation ahead.

As the new JD(U)-BJP combined took the reins of power, a truck carrying meat was stopped in Bhojpur district and the driver and his staff members were thrashed by the gau rakshak goons. Police came and arrested the driver and the staff members but the goons were allowed to flee away from this spot.

During his regime, dalits and particularly dalit women found themselves at the receiving end as they were targeted for sexual and physical attacks in different parts of the state. Amir Das commission which had been set up to investigate the attacks on dalits, wounded up. All the accused of such carnages were freed due to the connivance of the government.

After the break with NDA and the formation of Maha Gathbandhan, Nitish donned Gandhi-cap and toured different states, spreading the message of prohibition.

He announced his intention to fight for RSS-free India. But his real intention was to create a space for himself in national politics and fulfill his ambition to be the prime minister of India. But he encountered many such souls who are also entertaining such dreams.

So the scripted drama in league with the BJP was enacted in the name of zero tolerance against corruption. The exit was provided by Tejaswi Yadav against whom an FIR was lodged for acquiring assets beyond his known sources of income.

A veteran journalist of Telegraph, Shankar Sharan Thakur quoting Nitish Kumar earlier, wrote that “Modi’s name creates fear among the hearts of millions of minorities. One cannot have any adjustment with him.” But now Nitish has become Modi’s drumbeater.

Nitish should know that it is the farmers, workers, women dalit, students, youth and other members of civil society who are building an alternative to both the neo-liberal and communal agenda of Modi regime. Nobody needs chameleon-like character of Nitish.

LEFT MOVEMENT IN BIHAR

In the midst of political upheaval in Bihar, CPI(M) and Left parties are engaged in mobilising the common people on their daily issues. In the last twenty months, they have led a series of  struggles of peasants, agricultural workers, students, youth, women, unorganised sector workers, construction, contract workers, teachers etc.

At the call of the Party Central Committee, the Bihar state committee of CPI(M) carried out a campaign in the month of May highlighting the issues of food security, education, health, against privatisation of public sectors  etc. Dharnas and demonstrations were organised right from the block level to the district level in the intervening period. Movements against eviction and land grab were also launched in Begusarai, Darbhanga, West Champaran, Gaya etc. The Party has already decided to organise a state level “Janakrosh March” on September 19 at Patna. The political developments in Bihar have made this programme all the more relevant. Accordingly, the Party has started preparations in right earnest. A state level workers convention was organised in Patna which was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau members                               S Ramachandran Pillai and Hannan Mollah and state secretary Awadhesh Kumar. Secretariat members have been given the task of organising such conventions at district level and help the district leaders to prepare for the march in an organised manner.

The Party has also intervened in the incidents of growing attacks against women and dalits and has been able to force the administration to take action against the culprits.

In the meantime, the “Srijan Scam” of Bhagalpur has exposed the bureaucrat-politician nexus in siphoning off the public exchequer to the tune of more than thousand crores of rupees. It happened in the same period which is hailed as the era of good governance. The mega scam is a test for Nitish Kumar and for his so-called zero tolerance towards corruption as the BJP and JD(U) leaders of Bhagalpur who have close links with state leaders of both the parties have swindled thousands of crores of rupees. Every day the money involved in the scam is getting higher and new known faces of BJP and JD(U) leaders are getting exposed. The stories of sleaze and sex are also coming to the fore.

Bihar is also reeling under severe floods inundating the entire north Bihar, right from Champaran to Kishanganj, bringing deaths and miseries to the common people. They need immediate help but the government is totally unprepared and the flood-marooned people have been left to fend for themselves. Party is trying to help these hapless people in whatever little way it can.  

The Party also took the initiative and convened a meeting of Left parties. Some initial steps have been taken to launch united movement.

The most opportunist and immoral political acrobats of Nitish Kumar have made it abundantly clear that the leaders of regional parties cannot be trusted to be the ally in building an alternative against neoliberal economic policies and communal agenda of Modi regime. It does not preclude the masses behind these outfits to join the movements led by Left democratic and secular forces, rather they must be approached through various struggles and be brought in to the mass and class movements.

The political developments in Bihar pose both challenges and also open-up opportunities to go to the masses, mobilise them in struggles to create a real, pro-people alternative in favour of peasants, workers, dalits, oppressed sections, minorities, women, students, youth etc.   

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