1995 assembly elections - Scrutinising Bihar Elections

from that unscathed and with flying colours. Even our worst adversaries had to concede that CPI(ML)’s votes were based on its own strength and on the strength of the agrarian struggles of the rural poor.

The Sheshan Phenomenon

Here I must add that we did support Seshan’s moves to introduce ‘free and fair’ elections in Bihar, a state where the entire election process had been reduced to a mockery. We, however, knew their limitations. ‘Free and fair elections’ in an ideal bourgeois sense simply means doing away with the process of open coercion like booth capturing etc. In other words, it means a free play of capital in deciding the outcome. And therefore, ‘free and fair elections’ in a bourgeois society still remain bourgeois in their essential nature.

However, we never supported Seshan’s arbitrary actions in splitting and delaying the election process and we came out with the statement that it is all designed to help Congress(I). We also refused to make any joint representation to the Election Commission on election irregularities along with Congress(I) and BJP as suggested by Samata leaders. Therefore, it is wrong on the part of Mr.Gupta to accuse us of becoming the tacit supporters of other opposition parties on this count.

Facade of Laloo’s Charishma

Mr.Gupta attributes Laloo’s victory to his personal charisma, his identification with the common masses, his giving voice to the long-suffering silent majority, etc. Well, how has one to define his victory? It is a fact that except in CPI(ML) strongholds JD did get overwhelming support from the rural poor, and that the rural poor did get carried away by his demagogy, more or less in the fashion they earlier backed Indira Gandhi or back NT Rama Rao and Jayalalitha now. Our Party has hailed the assertion of rural poor in elections which only expresses their strivings for a dignified and better life. But this does not completely explain the full import of the victory of Janata Dal. Even if the allegation of administration’s active connivance with JD is rejected, none including Laloo Yadav has accused the Bihar administration of in anyway working against Janata Dal’s interest. Given that Bihar administration is organically linked with big landowners, as pointed out by Mr.Gupta himself, how does Mr.Gupta explain this strange behaviour of the administration vis-a-vis the messiah of the poor?

It should not be forgotten that a large number of JD MLAs are renowned criminals and several of them come from upper castes, particularly Rajputs, with notoriously feudal backgrounds. The other face of Laloo was revealed in garnering the support of upper caste gentry with the plea that only he can save them from Naxalite violence.

During his five-year rule, by distributing privileges and favours with impunity he won over several powerful feudal elements to his fold who originally belonged to Congress(I) and BJP. To win Muslim support religious fundamentalism was invoked to the extreme, and barring a few exceptions, the Muslim gentry too solidly backed Laloo Yadav.

In short, beneath Laloo’s individual charisma is hidden a social coalition of various power groups and landed interests of several dominant castes including a significant section of upper castes. If these social dynamics are not understood one is liable to be trapped in a one-sided, liberal and social-democratic interpretation of Laloo’s victory.

Laloo Yadav is nothing but the ruling class response to the growing revolutionary struggle in Bihar. This is the secret behind the support given to him by the administration as well as by the majority of dominant power groups: Laloo Yadav is quite conscious of his mission and one can find him simultaneously projecting himself before the upper-caste landed gentry as the alternative to the violent Naxalites. When he claims that Naxalites handed over guns to the poor and he has handed them books he exposes his mission of disarming the people mentally and physically in the otherwise highly violent and armed society of Bihar.

A comrade writing in Lokyuddh has ridiculed our election practice as a transition from area-wise seizure of power to area-wise seizure of seats. But a deeper analysis reveals that our electoral gains and our anti-feudal struggles are organically related. The areas where we won victories are the areas where the struggles were sharpest and, if the last three months are any indication, our victories have only gone to further intensify the pitch of struggle. In fact these areas represent the model of integration of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary struggles par excellence. Despite our marginal presence in the assembly we were very much part of mainstream politics in Bihar for the past five years. The next five years will be no exception.