Blinded by communal bile, BJP fails to read Bihar

Written by Mohammed Sajjad | Published on: November 26, 2015
represents Motihari (East Champaran), must be familiar with the chaur economy, but is yet to speak out.

The challenge
Neither of the two coalitions in their high decibel election campaigns, talked about how to control the recurrent flood, about how to make useful investments in reclaiming the chaur (low lying, waterlogged) lands of north Bihar ( given the fact that the poor among the upper castes have got their economic stakes in the chaur lands) and how to give creative impetus to agro industries.

A pressing challenge before the new government that has received such an overwhelming mandate from the people of Bihar, would be to retrieve the lost glory of at least some of the institutions of learning and research, besides, specifically, revamping of the primary education system. During the 1990s, a generation of the teachers of the government schools retired and a large number of vacancies could not be filled in for long. This broke the back of education. Some of these spaces came to be filled in by the RSS chain of schools. It also spread RSS shakhas. Subsequently, when the BJP alliance came to power in 2005, these shakhas further spread. In Bihar, during the Congress era, oppositional political spaces were occupied by the Left and Socialist political formations of peasant radicalism. During the era of social justice, these spaces came to be captured by the right wing reactionary forces.

Overall, Bihar continues to suffer as India’s ‘internal colony’.[xix]  Nitish Kumar’s gigantic challenge lies in going ahead on an inclusive journey that will create a middle class but one that is both rooted and stays on in the province. As important, for the sustainability of social democratic project, would be active programmes to resist the communalisation of that middle class as it evolves. The challenge is not just with the government just voted in but its allies in the political and social spectrum that see this victory, today, for what it actually is. A push back to the forces of aggressive majoritarianism and a reaffirmation of the idea of the republic. Will Bihar, “the Heart of India”, really show us the way? [xx]
[i] Nitish got the mandate in previous two elections (2005, 2010) in alliance with the BJP.
[ii] Historically, the Bhumihars have also played their roles in erecting educational and cultural institutions in Bihar in general and in Tirhut (north Bihar) in particular. Muzaffarpur is supposed to be the city and district of Bhumihar landlords. Nitish Kumar was in alliance with the BJP till June 2013.  In May 2014, his party the Janata Dal United (JDU) was trounced by the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections, and most of the upper caste MLAs of the JDU deserted him. Shaken badly by this, he could save his government by stepping down and nominating, Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit from the caste of Musahars (literally, the rat-eaters), as his successor chief minister. Manjhi subsequently formed his own party, Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) and aligned with the BJP to contest the Bihar elections.
[iii] For details see, Warisha Farasat, “The Forgotten Carnage of Bhagalpur”, Economic and Political Weekly, January 19, 2013, pp. 34-39.
[iv] For details see, Sankarshan Thakur, Single Man: The Life and Times of Nitish Kumar of Bihar. Harper Collins. Delhi, 2014. Lalu’s brazen protection to the rioters was perhaps to do with the fact that most of the aggressors were the Yadavas, the core social base of Lalu. Hence, Nitish’s prompt action in this had also to do with the politics of creating a wedge between the much hyped social coalition of the Muslims and Yadavas (M-Y). Together they comprise more than 30% of the Bihar population, and they were providing rock-solid support to Lalu in elections after elections. …Nitish reaped its benefits in the 2010 Assembly elections when he got substantial votes of the Muslims, specifically of the Pasmanda Muslims, who stood more benefitted by the reservations for them in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. For details see my book, Muslim Politics in Bihar: Changing Contours. Routledge, 2014    
[v] However, the rumour of the probability of a Rajput Chief Minister, helped BJP. The CSDS-Lokniti data says that around 70% of the Rajputs voted for the BJP. No other numerically-politically significant single caste has voted for the BJP in such a high proportion. Radhamohan Singh, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and in the middle of the campaign it circulated that Rajendra Singh (an RSS Pracharak contested from Dinara, Bhojpur, and lost it) could be the NDA chief Minister. Whereas, the most important Rajput leader, the Vice President of the RJD, Prof. Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, adversely affected the GA’s prospects by his remarks that the Hindu sages used to eat beef; he had also proposed alliance with Owaisi, which was rebuffed by Lalu. 
[vi] Khalid Ansari and Ashok Yadav, “Notes on Forbesganj Violence”, 23 June 2011.
[vii] Appu Esthose Suresh, “Carcass in mosque, idols defaced: How communal pot is kept boiling in Bihar”. The Indian Express, August 22, 2015   
[viii] In 2015 the elder son of Lalu, Tej Pratap Yadav contested from the Mahua Assembly which is a segment of the Hajipur Lok Sabha, reserved for the Scheduled Castes, the seat of Ramvilas Paswan. Mahua is a market-town situated on a state highway connecting Hajipur, Samastipur, and Muzaffarpur. An old sufi shrineof Makhdum Shah Nematullah Zahidi in Mahua is venerated by both Hindus and Muslims. These regions are known for communal harmony. Vaishali district went for polls in the third phase, whereas Muzaffarpur, Sheohar, Sitamarhi and Champaran went for the polls in fourth phase on 1 November 2015. Incidentally, Prashant Kishor, the techno-manager poll strategist belongs to Mahua (Vaishali).
[ix] Appu Esthose Suresh, “Police Record in Bihar Show ways in which Communal Pot was kept Boiling”, The Indian Express, August 22, 2015.
[x] Mohammad Sajjad, “Caste, Community and Crime: Explaining the Violence in Muzaffarpur”, Economic and Political Weekly, January 31, 2015.
[xi] This was also in circulation that Shankar Yadav managed (euphemism for obtaining ticket through bribes, by paying huge amount) RJD ticket for Paroo through Tej Pratap Yadav. There is a common refrain among the RJD people that Tej Pratap is less scrupulous, and that the younger son of Lalu, Tejaswi Yadav is a relatively more promising politician in making..
[xii] See my column, “This is Akhilesh Yadav’s way of Running UP”. August 5, 2013. up/20130805.htm
[xiii] See my column, “Rise of Non-saffron Modi in Indian Politics” September 13, 2013. 
[xiv] See my column, “Don’t the Massacres Prick your Conscience, Azam Bhai?”, September 16, 2013.
[xv] See my column, “Raking up Beef Issue will Hurt BJP”. 13 October 2015 
[xvi] This fear however was not manifesting in Balrampur (Katihar district) where all the downtrodden including the Muslims voted for the CPI-ML candidate, who defeated the BJP with emphatic margin of over 20,000 votes.
[xvii] Muzamil Jaleel, “Bihar polls: Hurt by ‘certain community’ remark, they ask: Aren’t we his responsibility?”. The Indian Express, 2 November 2015.
[xviii] Sarvepalli Gopal, Anatomy of a Confrontation: The Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi. Penguin, Delhi, 1992, pp. 18-19
[xix] Sachidanand Sinha, The Internal Colony: A Study in Regional Exploitation. Sindhu Publications, Delhi, 1973
[xx] John W Houlton, Bihar, the Heart of India. Orient Longmans, 1949