November 15, 2015

BIHAR VERDICT: Major Setback for BJP

THE Bihar elections have resulted in a resounding defeat for the BJP. The alliance of the JD(U)-RJD-Congress has come to power with a big majority. This election verdict will have important ramifications for the politics of the country.

The BJP had sought to repeat the tactic it employed in the Lok Sabha elections – talk of development interspersed with communal appeal.  In Bihar, hundreds of RSS cadres were deployed as during the Lok Sabha polls to take the communal message to the people and create a polarisation. At the top, both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah spewed anti-Muslim rhetoric. Modi made speeches wherein he warned that the JD(U)-RJD combine would “take away 5 percent of the reservation of dalits, mahadalits, backwards and EBCs and give it to a particular community”. The BJP put out advertisements in newspapers with the same message. Amit Shah, the BJP president, declared that a defeat for the BJP would be celebrated in Pakistan with crackers, thereby implying that those who oppose the BJP are anti-national. The “cow” was also in much use in the campaign with newspaper advertisements talking of the “threat to cows”.

The BJP totally miscalculated the mood of the people. The eighteen month record of the BJP government at the centre had dispelled largely the illusion about the “development” pursued by the Modi government. “Har Har Modi” had become “Arhar Modi” with the prices of various dals shooting up to Rs 200 per kg. The unity of the RJD and the JD(U) foiled the caste calculus the BJP relied upon of forging the unity of upper castes, EBCs and dalits. The RSS chief Bhagwat’s call to review the reservation policy also confirmed the apprehensions of the people that the BJP-RSS agenda was upper caste driven Hindutva.

The Bihar election verdict has a national significance in the current juncture. Ever since the Modi government assumed office, there has been an aggressive campaign led by the RSS outfits to advance the Hindutva agenda. This was manifested in attacks on the minorities, targeting them on issues such as cow slaughter, which led to the brutal killing of Mohd. Akhlaq in Dadri. There has been the targeting of secular intellectuals and writers which resulted in the killing of Pansare and Kalburgi. From ministers in the union cabinet down to the storm-troopers of the RSS outfits, a common refrain has been to roll back the secular democratic basis of the Indian Constitution. It is this aggressive campaign which also spilled over into the Bihar election campaign.

The eighteen month record of the Modi government has been marked by vicious attacks on the livelihood of the people and cuts in social welfare schemes. This rightwing economic and communal agenda is what has been rejected by the people of Bihar.

Six Left parties had unitedly fought the assembly elections. Despite the polarisation between the main alliances, the Left could poll nearly 4 percent vote and get three seats won by the CPI(ML)-Liberation. The election understanding of the Left parties was forged rather late and the joint convention was held only on September 7 after the announcement of the elections. There was no full agreement on seat sharing. There was no effective statewide joint campaign. Despite these weaknesses, Left unity has shown the potential for building a powerful Left and democratic alliance in the state, provided the Left forces can work unitedly together in the coming days.

The Bihar verdict will help the all India struggles against the Modi government’s rightwing economic policies, the communal agenda of the RSS-BJP combine and growing authoritarianism. The stage is set for the building of powerful movements and mass struggles against these triple aspects of the right wing offensive.

(November 10, 2015)