Wednesday, December 22, 2010

CPIML on Bihar Elections

Bihar 2010
Bihar has delivered a stunning verdict. An outgoing government returning to power with 85% majority is a very rare phenomenon in the history of parliamentary democracy anywhere in the world. That such a thing has happened now in the state of Bihar which has been known for the presence of the widest spectrum of political forces in the legislative arena is indeed quite remarkable.
In a house of 243, the NDA has increased its tally from 143 to 206, with the BJP accounting for nearly 60% of the increase. Consequently, the entire opposition has been virtually driven out of the Assembly. The RJD’s tally has come down from 54 to 22, and its new-found ally LJP which had independently won 9 seats in the last elections, finds itself reduced to just three seats despite the RJD’s backing. The Congress which fought the elections with the call of forming a Congress-led government finished with a tally of only four seats. And for the first time since 1990, the CPI(ML), the consistent Left opposition in Bihar Assembly, would go completely unrepresented.
Evidently, the verdict reveals an overwhelming and overarching social shift in favour of Nitish Kumar’s promise of development. Bihar certainly does not want to go back – neither to Lalu Prasad nor to the Congress. What triggered this huge social shift were signs of restoration of ‘law and order’ and hope of some delivery of change and development in a state which seemed to have come to an absolute standstill. And facilitating this shift was the good old formula of caste engineering that invoked and energised all those social identities that felt excluded or suppressed during Lalu Prasad’s once dominant and protracted reign of ‘social justice’.
The contradictions written into Nitish Kumar’s model of development, and the contrast between the rude reality and the heady rhetoric, are yet to forcefully come to the surface. The CPI(ML) was perhaps the only party to challenge Nitish Kumar on the very question of development. The party’s election campaign focussed boldly on the battle between the two contending concepts and modes of development – the dominant neo-liberal model that reinforces the semi-feudal order and uses ‘development’ only to facilitate and camouflage a relentless exploitation of cheap labour in and away from Bihar versus an alternative democratic model that lends primacy to the basic rights of the toiling people and the agenda of all-round development of productive forces within Bihar. This is surely the emerging battle ahead and the revolutionary Left will have to rebuild itself in the course of this all important battle.
Media analysts are clearly mesmerised by the scale and sweep of the Nitish Kumar phenomenon. The same people who till recently celebrated the Lalu spectacle as the ultimate show of subaltern politics and rubbished communists for not comprehending the reality of ‘caste’ are now busy preaching ‘development’ as the new mantra of politics. Revolutionary communists fought the ‘magic of social justice’ with the logic of class struggle and the banner of social transformation. They will also challenge the euphoria of Nitish Kumar’s ‘politics of development’ by pressing ahead with the arduous course of class struggle and boldly upholding the banner of people’s rights and democracy. The surge of developmental aspirations of the hard working people of Bihar is real and this has now put Nitish on trial.
As far as the CPI(ML)’s poll performance is concerned, in February 2005, the CPI(ML) had polled a little over 600,000 votes and won seven seats, its highest tally till date. In November 2005, the party had lost two seats and some 50,000 votes to finish with a tally of five seats and nearly 560,000 votes. In the 2010 elections, the party has lost all its seats even as it polled more than half a million votes. The rise and growth of the Nitish phenomenon has clearly taken a toll and blunted the winning edge of the party even in its strongholds. The party has of course begun exposing and challenging the new regime right on the issue of development and all its emerging trappings in Bihar including rampant loot, emerging authoritarian rule and utter deprivation of the masses. The party will now have to summon all its courage and determination to take this battle deeper and wider.
In India’s parliamentary history, stunning electoral outcomes and euphoric majorities have often proved to be a prelude to major upsurges of mass struggles. Recall Indira Gandhi’s spectacular rise in 1971, Rajiv Gandhi’s extraordinary majority in 1984, the AIADMK’s clean sweep in Tamil Nadu in 1991 and the sweeping victory of the CPI(M) in West Bengal just the other day in 2006 and we know how quickly majorities can melt into thin air in the heat of mass struggles. The message of the 2010 elections for the revolutionary Left is therefore loud and clear: go deep among the people, resume hard work and prepare for the future. Let us turn the developmental aspirations of the people into a powerful political struggle for real development.
Bihar Assembly Elections 2010:
The Overall Outcome and the CPI(ML)'s Performance
1. The NDA has secured an unprecedented majority winning 206 seats in a house of 243. Within the NDA, the BJP's success rate (91 out of 101, i.e. 90%) is higher than that of the JD(U) (115 out of 142, i.e., 80.98%). The leading opposition bloc got only 25 seats (RJD 22, LJP 3), while the Congress got 4 seats and the CPI 1. The JMM too got 1 seat while independents (most of them pro-BJP) got six seats.
2. In terms of vote share, the NDA has got a little more than 39% (JDU 22.62%, BJP 16.51%), while the leading opposition RJD-LJP combine got 25.63% (RJD 18.88%, LJP 6.75%), followed by 8.38% of the Congress and 4.19% of the Left (CPI(ML) 1.79%, CPI 1.69% and CPI(M) 0.71%). Parties like the BSP (3.22%), NCP (1.82%), JD(S)(0.79%) and SP (0.55%), though failing to win any seat, accounted for a sizable combined vote share of 6.38%.
3. Compared to November 2005, the NDA's vote-share improved only by 3% while the RJD's share dropped by nearly 4.61% . This was however sufficient to trigger a landslide win for the ruling NDA and a drastic decline in opposition seats.
4. The Muslim-majority district of Kishanganj is the only district where the NDA drew a blank. The four seats in the district were claimed by the Congress (2), RJD (1) and LJP (1). Among the remaining 15 victorious Muslim candidates, as many as 8 however belong to the JD(U)-BJP combine. Of the 19 Muslim MLAs, the two leading combines thus account for 8 each (JD(U)-7, BJP-1, RJD-6, LJP-2) while three of the four Congress MLAs are also Muslim.
5. The RJD-LJP combine could open its account in only 15 out of Bihar's 38 districts, winning 2 or more seats in only 8 districts (Madhubani-3, Patna-3, Darbhanga-2, Samastipur-2, Saran-2, Bhojpur-2, Kaimur-2, Kishanganj-2).
6. The CPI(ML) had fielded a total of 104 candidates. The Party candidates polled a total of 520,352 votes, finishing second in five places, third in 11 and fourth in 12 places. Of the five seats where we finished second, three were in Siwan (Darauli, Ziradei and Raghunathpur), one in Katihar (Balrampur) and only one in south Bihar (Arwal). In all our other prominent constituencies in south Bihar we finished either third or fourth.
7. In terms of votes, three candidates polled between 30,000 and 50,000 votes, while another three polled between 20,000 and 30,000. There were 8 candidates in the 10,000-20,000 bracket and another 8 in the 5-10,000 bracket. Among the remaining 82 candidates, 6 candidates polled between 4,000 and 5,000; 10 between 3,000 and 4,000, and 12 between 2,000 and 3,000.
8. The most recent comparison of our performance can be made with the 2009 LS election votes. 2009 was the first election after delimitation and that was also when the current socio-political trends had begun to manifest themselves quite forcefully. Compared to 2009 LS votes, our total votes increased by 50,000, but compared to October-November 2005 our votes are down by 50,000. Compared to February 2005 when we had won our maximum number of seats (seven), our votes have declined by nearly 90,000. In other words, if between February 2005 and November 2005, the rise of the Nitish Kumar phenomenon had cost us 40,000 votes and two seats, the five years of growth and consolidation of the same phenomenon has now cost us another 50,000 votes and all our five seats in the outgoing Assembly.
9. Among the 22 seats where we have polled 5,000-plus votes, 17 seats have witnessed an increase in votes (91,291) since the 2009 LS election while 5 seats suffered a decline (21,563). Overall, we thus polled 69,728 votes more in these constituencies since May 2009. If we look at 50 key constituencies in terms of our overall practice, votes increased in 33 seats (by a total of 97,871 votes) while declining in the remaining 17 (by 35,943 votes).
10. Delimitation makes comparison with 2005 Assembly elections somewhat difficult in many seats, but if we compare our main areas we get a mixed picture of marked decline in some seats, more or less steady performance in a few and recovery in the rest over the last five years. For example, while votes dropped quite drastically from 45,516 to 32,474 in the main two seats of Rohtas, and from 45,249 to 31,280 in the two main seats of Patna, votes increased marginally from 67,109 to 72,871 in the three main seats of Siwan and from 29,265 to 38,432 in the main three seats of Arwal-Jahanabad belt. In the 5 main seats of Bhojpur, votes fell from 98,049 to 88,388. Among our other main seats, Balrampur witnessed a marginal increase from 39,872 to 45,432, while Obra (Aurangabad) and Bhorey (Gopalganj) saw votes decline from 24,023 to 18,463 and 15,382 to 8,800 respectively.

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