Skip to main content

Bihar polls: Why Tejashwi Yadav should take Chirag Pawan, Owaisi, Left more seriously

Tejashwi Yadav 
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The Bihar assembly results are out. They have proved that those who tried to influence the polls before or after through their 'exit' strategies had egg on their face. The journalists and experts who claim to be 'grounded' were divided into pro- and anti-factions of Narendra Modi. If over 80% them were giving NDA a chance, the rest of 20% were certain that the Mahagathbandhan would take over.
Most of them, however, felt that Chirag Paswan won't be able to do anything, though he would ‘succeed' in denting Nitish Kumar, who is playing his last innings. They didn’t think much of the Asaduddin Owaisi’s All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM)
There are, however, a few things that these results do show. While BJP's Ram Mandir and Kashmir did not work, Tejashwi Yadav should have been careful. His image was sought to be 'constructed' by the upper caste savarna 'coterie' in a particular way. He seemed less keen on highlighting 'social justice'. To him 'economic justice' was important. What his advisers failed to tell him is – social justice will remain the most important issue in India as long as our feudal structure does not change.
If there is any lesson from Bihar's election, it is this: that in India, oppressed castes still remain unrepresented in the power structure. After the demise of Ram Vilas Paswan, who appeared as a Bahujan face of Bihar, ‘secular’ parties further tried to undermine all that he stood for. Even earlier, both Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav had their problems with Paswan, probably because of his caste.
In these elections, Chirag Paswan proved that, even when he was unable to win much, he could damage others’ prospects. If Chirag had gone with Nitish Kumar or Tejashwi Yadav, either of them would have secured majority, and wouldn’t have needed BJP or Congress.
Tejashwi decided to ally with Congress, which has done nothing in Bihar during the last five years. While Priyanka Gandhi has been touring Uttar Pradesh and focussing on issues, there was no one in Bihar to do this. Perhaps, if Tejashwi had given more seats to CPI-ML, his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) would have had better results.
But these all these are ifs and buts. Tejashwi would do well to to strengthen his social justice alliance, including with the Left parties, if he wants to take on BJP. After all, Congress has a limited base, and it has not been able to spread it either. Blaming Asaduddin Owaisi for its failures wouldn’t help. While Congress, RJD and their allies tried to focus on development, they appeared to pretend as if ‘caste' has been 'annihilated' in Bihar. At no point of time, we saw an assurance from their leaders to the most powerless groups by speaking about them.
The biggest surprise in Bihar has come from AIMIM, which has won five seats. Its leader Owaisi focused on the Seemanchal area of Bihar, and his gambit has paid off. He made alliance with Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP). AIMIM appears to have got Dalit-OBC votes. However, it is an alliance which emerged just before the polls, hence it is doubtful it will form an ideological front. It may face the same fate as that ofOwaisi’s alliance with Prakash Ambedkar in Maharashtra.
Nitish Kumar failed miserably because his caste does not have enough presence in the state. He was always a leader needed by the savarnas to counter the so-called jungle raj of Lalu Prasad Yadav. This time, as is being reported, Chirag's savarna candidates were responsible for the decimation of Nitish Kumar's party.
BJP's rise has made it abundantly clear that savarnas have shifted their allegiance. This will not change till social justice issues are taken up by other parties. If the latter think that a savarna narrative will attract savarna votes, they are mistaken. Only when they take up social justice issues in their constituencies, focusing on the Bahujan narrative and work with the most marginalised sections, would they succeed. BSP can attract Valmikis, Kols, Kushwahas, Kurmis, Rajbhars etc. if it nurtures them, unlike Brahmins, who will only vote to a winning candidate.
BJP consolidating savarna votes and dividing others is its well-established and proven strategy. It is for other parties to learn a lesson. Congress will not gain unless BJP is weakened, because both the parties have the same leadership structure. At the moment, the savarnas cannot think of dividing them into two groups, as they know, such a division will only help the Bahujans or avarnas, into power.
Congress, unfortunately, has not learned its lesson, because learning this lesson and implementing it, would mean Congress returning to its Mandal politics. But this will not happen as long as the party adheres to the Brahmanical narrative and does not provide enough space to the Bahujan communities, including minorities.
Another factor of these elections is a wake up call for secular parties. All these years secular parties took Muslims for granted and never raised their issues. During the last six years, the Muslim community faced so much of demonisation, yet none of them, who are now blaming Owaisi for cutting into their votes, spoke for them. These parties are feeling that raising issues of Muslims would 'polarise' voters and BJP would gain.
Nitish Kumar as chief minister will be at the mercy of BJP. His party has little future. His savarna votes are now with BJP, while its OBC votes in the coming days will shift to RJD
Meanwhile, BJP has continued to demonise Muslims, which is what it did during Bihar elections, too. It should be understood: Muslims feel that secular parties in India have betrayed them because they don’t raise their issues or provide them with enough community leaders to raise their grievances. Muslims do know, putting their faith in secular parties during the past 70 years has failed to get them fair representation or resolution to their issues.
The view is strong: When every caste is consolidating itself, why shouldn’t the Muslims do the same under a political party which fights political battle for them. During a Facebook live discussion, Ali Anwar – journalist, social activist and politician, who fights discrimination against lower-caste and Dalit Muslims – agreed, for political parties Muslim issues do not matter, only their votes do.
Asaduddin Owaisi, Chirag Paswan
Most of the candidates of AIMIM won handsomely and it will strengthen Owaisi's resolve to take the battle to Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. He is a capable leader who has spoken powerfully on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register for Citizens (NRC), which secular parties have failed to do. The result is Muslims have begun trusting him. You cannot disenfranchise a community in democracy by denying it political space. Communities will fight and weave their own network, and this is what is happening in Bihar. 
As for the performance of Left parties in Bihar, particularly CPI-ML, which has a strong network and cadre base in Bihar and Jharkhand, they have been successful because of their hard work to raise people's issues, even as providing representation to diverse communities. They do not have money and media support, but their commitment to social justice is deep. The Mahagathbandhan would have done well to give them more seats. In Bihar and Jharkhand, CPI-ML is all set to play a more decisive role. Tejashwi Yadav and RJD must develop better coordination with them. It can work wonders.
As for Tejashwi Yadav, he has proved that he can deliver. He worked hard and did try to stitch alliances at the local level. He is much more powerful now. Right now, Bihar will not have a stable government. Nitish Kumar as chief minister will be at the mercy of BJP. His party has little future. His savarna votes are now with BJP, while its OBC votes in the coming days will shift to RJD, unless BJP plays a Mandal politics.
BJP could not become the largest party in Bihar but it will build its narrative for West Bengal. The Left parties need to stitch their alliance in West Bengal by focusing on how to take on BJP. West Bengal is going to have CAA and NRC as important issues. Owaisi is going to contest in there. He will try to attract not just Muslim votes but also Dalit votes. Meanwhile, BJP is jumping on Dalit issues and is trying to reach out to the Namsudra community, compelling Mamata Banerjee to declare some specific measures for the community.
Bihar elections prove that India cannot be governed by one community or party. India will always need ‘Mahagathbandhans’ of communities. If one keeps in view the need for a long-term solution to India's political crisis, one needs coalitions to govern the country. These coalition will only function when they are based on concrete common minimum programmes and do not emerge just on the eve of elections. Secular parties need to spread their social base and build cadres and leaders from diverse communities. Bihar's elections prove that smaller parties, which take up community issues, may look small and may not demand much, but they can damage the established political parties.
---
*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

Regional parties, anti-Congress progressives, civil society groups 'joining' Bharat Jodo

By Harshavardhan Purandare, Sandeep Pandey*  The Congress party declared Bharat Chhodo (Quit India) movement against the British regime in 1942. The Congress party has now launched a movement Bharat Jodo (Connecting and Uniting India) against the Modi regime in 2022. Indian people have had a journey of 80 years since Mahatma Gandhi gave that Quit India call to the British and we have to agree that we stand most divided in our modern history when Rahul Gandhi is giving this Bharat Jodo call to the nation. And back then, Congress was a thriving idealistic political movement against the British rulers and now it is an ever weakening political organization electorally defeated several times. However, it is India at stake, not just the Congress party. That is why so many regional political parties, civil society organizations, traditional anti-Congress progressive forces like socialists and communists, intellectuals and civil servants have declared their support and are proactively partici

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Excess to cheetah in Kuno to increase 'woes' of local people, 'disturb' wildlife balance

Bharat Dogra*  The release of eight cheetahs into the Kuno National Park ( Madhya Pradesh) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 17, although accompanied by a media blitz, has raised several questions. The animals were flown from Namibia to Gwalior and from there they were taken to the release site in a helicopter. Official sources have stated that this is the first time a large carnivorous species has been moved across continents for establishing a new population. This first release will be followed by others under this project. However, precisely for this reason, it is important to be cautious because if such translocations have been generally avoided in the past, there may have been reasons for this and at the same time we do not have much learning experiences from the past. The Cheetah became extinct in India in 1952, although this very fast moving animal is still remembered in the folklore of many areas. Hence the first impulse is to say that trying to introduce and revive

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Older than Delhi, no other school may have witnessed so many vicissitudes as this one

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*  Behind every book there is a writer or writers. Are the books written for the personal gratification of authors? Is the purpose utilitarian, educational or to gain public ovation? There are writers who publish books because they are inspired by a purely disinterested and fair-minded pursuit of knowledge and to clarify the issues that agitate them and society. The book under discussion   is a masterstroke on the life and times of not only an institution at Ajmeri Gate, Delhi — Anglo Arabic School — but about the complex relationship between the school and the cajoled Muslim community. Just while you are at Ajmeri Gate, supposedly, the border of Old and New Delhi, barely a few meters from the cacophony and the chaos outside the New Delhi railway station, lies an island of serenity — a school much older than New Delhi, with a wholesale machine tools market on its West, a road leading to Rajiv Chowk (Connaught Place) on the East and colourful confusion of rickshaws,