Guest post by SUSHIL CHANDRA
If the media discourse on Bihar elections has any semblance of truth, this election is a choice between Pepsi and Coke. Whatever you choose, you get a cola of casteism, corruption and gangsters. On one hand we have winning combination of intermediate castes, the assured Muslim vote, the great legacy of fodder scam and kidnapping rings with added glitter of so called good governance and on the other hand the return of feudal dominance, the guaranteed promise of a theocracy and another band of gangsters. It is difficult to fathom from the media coverage that there is a third alternative available in shape of left which is free from all these attractions and offering a principled platform. You can see on television Upendra Kushwahas and Pappu Yadavs holding forth on their great vision for Bihar, the daily tantrums of Majhi and Paswan for their tug-of-war on seats but talk of the left and even Ravish Kumar forgets to mention them on his daily shouting matches on Bihar election. Is it because of our corporate media is not willing to invest in those not willing to invest on caste and religion?
But while it is futile to cry in the wilderness of media cacophony because we can well understand the corporate media ignoring left, one must appreciate the fact that it is for the first time that left has put a united face in Bihar without being a doormat of this or that anti-Congress or anti-BJP front. Still, is it not tragic that left has become almost irrelevant in a state which has got an illustrious line-up of lily-white stalwarts like Chandra Shekhar Singh, Chaturanan Mishra, Bhogendra Jha, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and Vinod Mishra. In a state with its disproportionate share of corruption scandals and crime-nexus, there is not a single tiniest finger of allegation either against CPI, CPM or CPI-ML. This, when the whole fury of ruthless Ranvir Sena was directed against CPI-ML.
Mr Jawed Naqwi in his weekly column in Dawn expresses his disappointment over the left parties not being the part of JD(U)-RJD-Congress alliance because of the obvious reason that they will eat into the anti-BJP votes. But look at the history of left in Bihar. It has always been part of either an anti-Congress or anti-BJP front. Has it really consolidated the left forces or weakened the right-wing in any way? In fact, just the opposite has happened. In this whole process of anti-Congressism or anti-BJPism, the distinct left agenda of land-reform, share-croppers rights and the rights of landless farm-labor has got completely obliterated. In the meantime the Janata-Parivar parties have gained with their rabid casteist agenda at the cost of the rock-solid support base of left (not only Begusarai and Madhubani but even Patna used to be the stronghold of left). On the other hand BJP has gained in exactly the same areas because of the caste polarization caused by this shift. This has ironically resulted in anti-BJP alliances helping BJP.
Whenever you talk of decline of left in Bihar, the critics of left blame it on the communists’ inability to understand caste, a euphemism for refusal to indulge in caste-based politics. But looking at the issue differently, caste has been an issue responsible for their decline. In Bihar caste and class are largely co-terminus and the parting lines are same. This meant that the wholesome support which was available for left parties in Bihar consisted completely of the suffering castes, whereas , the whole of the leadership came from privileged castes. It must be said that the left parties failed to resolve this contradiction. As a result, when anti-Congressism gave way to caste wars, the left parties allowed their support to be shifted to these caste based parties, their denominations (RJD, JDU and what not) notwithstanding. So we have a strange situation, where Ranvir Sena runs amuck with rivers of blood to maintain their feudal dominance and victims vote for JDU and RJD and the governments run by these parties give free ticket to freeway to Ranvir Sena.
This brings us to the obvious question- what about the good governance of Nitish Kumar? Should the left not understand this simple fact that that he is the only alternative offering good governance, untainted by corruption and fighting an almost losing battle with theocracy ? Is it so blind that it is offering victory on a platter to BJP? But to me, fundamental question is not whether BJP wins or loses. Because in both the cases, BJP will get stronger with the feudal, religious and caste consolidation. The fundamental question is about the fundamental issues of land reform, rights of the bataidars and farm-labor and resisting the might of the private armies. Should the election be all about choosing between two black kettles? Has Nitish not thwarted all attempts to land reforms and share-croppers acts? Has he not protected the private armies with full force?
For too long, left has played a doormat to others. Today it is the Corbyn moment. Fukuyamas and Huntingtons of the world gloating over the fall of communism have been proven wrong and Thatcher and Reagan have ceded space to Corbyn and Sanders. The contradictions of market economy are there for everyone to see. The inequalities in western economies are at unprecedented levels today. It appeared that the occupy movement has fizzled out. But the meteoric rise of Sanders shows that it was not a flash in the pan. It becomes necessary for European union to punish Tsipras for his massive victory in referendum by handcuffing with terms of surrender and virtually parade him on the streets of Athens so that the Spanish dare not vote for Podemos. This is a surreal moment when the emperor of capitalism is naked in the street and India is running blindly toward the chimera of development promised by the same emperor. All of us have seen the burning hell, this chimera has created. Today, Bihar needs a Corbyn moment with a straight talking uncompromising left standing on its own legs. Theocracy can be fought only by challenging it straight with leftist principle and not using the crutches of caste, corruption and gangsters.
The author is a practicing automobile designer with PhD in Mechanical engineering and published papers on aesthetics of automobiles and its relationship with socio-economic aspect