The Left parties surprisingly won 16 of the 29 seats they contested as part of the Mahagathbandhan in Bihar assembly polls. The RJD-led alliance did not succeed in resting power from the NDA, but the Communist Party of India, the CPI (Marxist) and the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation did very well to cheer those who believe in the Communist-Socialist ideology.
The CPI and CPI (M) won two seats each of the six and four seats they contested respectively. Most startling was the performance of CPI (ML) Liberation which won 12 of the 19 seats it contested.
Analysts have different views on this surprising win, but no one can deny that the Left parties have this strong ground team, which works relentlessly, irrespective of electoral results.
Badri Narayan, director of the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute in Prayagraj, told ThePrint, “The results are a very important moment for the Left, since they have turned back the clock to a time when the parties used to have around two dozen MLAs in the assembly of undivided Bihar. In fact, even until 1995, the Left parties had 25-35 MLAs in the Bihar assembly, with the CPI winning 20-25 seats in every election.”
Consequently the CPI and the CPI (M) lost ground, but CPI (ML) Liberation continued to win five-six seats in each election. The Left lost their popularity mainly due to the hold of ‘Mandal’ politics on the state. The rise of Lalu Prasad Yadav made caste a big factor thus diminishing the Left parties further. Lalu Yadav made caste identities the centre of politics in Bihar. Meanwhile, the Naxal movement gained ground.
Ironically, Lalu’s son Tejashwi Yadav has today resurrected the Left, thanks to the phenomenal rise of the BJP over the years.
To downplay the victory of CPI (ML) Liberation because it was a part of the Mahagathbandhan would underestimate the Left parties’ consistent presence in the state, even if they did not do well in the elections.
CPI (ML) Liberation (which has its roots in the Naxalbari movement of the 1960s) won the seats this time where the Left has always had presence due to a history of class struggle.
“The Left does its politics on issues of peasants, farmers, working classes… These are movement-oriented parties, so even when they do not perform electorally, their space does not diminish because their cadres keep working in a society where feudalism endures,” senior journalist Nalin Verma, who co-authored the book Gopalganj to Raisina Road on Lalu’s life, told The Print.
CPI (ML) Liberation has a dedicated supporter base among the Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) and the Dalits in areas where class violence is particularly stark.
The Left had done well in the western districts of Siwan, Bhojpur, Buxar, Rohtas, Jehanabad and even Patna, collectively known as the Bhojpur region because it is a fortress of class struggle since the times of (Communist leader) Charu Majumdar.
The CPI (ML) had fought for a long time against the ‘Yadav rule’ that the RJD is alleged to have brought in, but today’s Left believes in flexibility. That is why the CPI (ML) Liberation went ahead and forged an alliance even with the Congress, which it would not have done 20 years ago.
The RJD’s politics too has changed over the years which made the marriage of Left-Congress-RJD a possibility.
Rahul Verma, fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, however, cautioned against over-reading into the results as a “resurgence” of the Left.
“They have won as many seats piggybacking on the RJD. Even the last time they allied with them, they won 20-odd seats. It would be wrong to read the results as the resurgence of the Left, since for the Left, it is a fight for survival, not resurgence,” he told ThePrint.
On the reasons why the Left were given so many seats to contest if they did not offer anything to the RJD, Rahul Verma said since the RJD was trying to expand its voter base and shed the ‘Muslim-Yadav party’ tag, the Left would bring in some Dalit and EBC voters.