RJD pins hopes on Left as Congress continues to lose support in Bihar
Left parties’ success in the 2020 Assembly election has given RJD an opportunity to adopt a tough stand on seat-sharing while dealing with the Congress
Left parties in Bihar were often not taken seriously in recent years till they re-emerged as a political force to reckon with in the 2020 Bihar Assembly election. Their impressive performance in that poll virtually revived their fortunes. In comparison to their performance, the Congress has lost much of its sheen over the years.
But surprisingly, the Congress has been adopting an aggressive posture on its relationship with the RJD. It forcefully demanded the Kusheshwar Asthan seat in last year’s Assembly by-election and, when the RJD refused to concede its demand, it declared that it was not part of the grand alliance in the state.
Left parties’ success in the election has also given the RJD an opportunity to adopt a tough stand while dealing with the Congress in seat-sharing arrangements for elections, commented a political analyst.
The relationship between the RJD and the Congress received a major setback when the latter could win only 19 out of the 70 seats in the 2020 Bihar assembly elections.
Congress, the ‘weak link’
A large section of RJD leaders still repent that there was an error of judgment in giving so many seats to the Congress in the seat sharing arrangement. Many now consider the Congress a ‘weak link’ in the grand alliance. The Congress had won 27 out of 41 seats it had contested in the 2015 Bihar Assembly election when the JD(U) was also part of the grand alliance.
Congress leaders attribute their party`s dismal performance in the last Assembly election to the allocation of around 30-35 ‘tough’ seats’, but the fact remains that the party’s organisation remains weak at all levels.
The Left parties CPI, CPM and CPI(ML) won 16 of the 29 seats they contested and their strike rate was pegged at more than 55 per cent. In the 2015 Assembly election, the CPI(ML) had won three seats while the other two drew a blank.
But the 2020 election results have convinced RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav that the Left parties can be reliable partners, capable of boosting the performance of the grand alliance.
How will Left parties be helpful to RJD?
Pushya Mitra, senior journalist, said the RJD’s alliance with the Left would be quite beneficial for Lalu Prasad’s party, given the fact that the CPI(ML) has pockets of influence in south Bihar, particularly Bhojpur district and other areas of Shahabad region. It was the reason the grand alliance got a clean sweep there in the last assembly election, he added.
He further said the Left parties have a strong cadre base in the state even if it is not so well reflected in the number of seats they win in the elections. The influence of the Left was also seen during the anti-Agnipath protests as their activists took to the streets.
If Left parties keep the momentum and build on their electoral gains, they can significantly improve the chances of the grand alliance returning to power, remarked a political analyst on the condition of anonymity.
Impact on RJD-Congress relations
Despite suffering a jolt in the Assembly election, the grand old party, instead of accepting ‘ground realities’, started adapting an aggressive posture, much to the annoyance of the RJD. Senior Congress leader and party MLC Prem Chandra Mishra said that it was up to the RJD to decide what it wanted to do. The Congress wouldn, however, not sacrifice its larger interest by accepting RJD’s diktats, he remarked.
When asked about the future of the RJD-Left alliance, Mishra said: “I extend my well wishes to them, but how formidable is their relationship will only be known when they sit together for working out seat sharing arrangements for the 2024 Lok Sabha election and 2025 Bihar Assembly election.”
Pushya Mitra said that both the RJD and the Congress are dependent on each other due to political compulsions but it is also true that the Congress is more dependent on the RJD than vice-versa.
He said the Congress’s traditional vote bank, comprising upper castes, Dalits and Muslims, has shifted to others political parties. While upper castes mainly started supporting BJP with the advent of ‘Kamandal’ politics, a large chunk of Muslims shifted their loyalty to the RJD while Dalits shifted the Left parties.
Political analyst Sanjay Kumar said the Congress has lost its support base as it is left only with leaders and not workers. The Congress lost its support base since it was ousted from power in the state in 1990 and as it continued to ride piggyback on the RJD, he added.
The Congress’ social base in Bihar has shrunk alarmingly while the Left parties have fought for the rights of the poor and downtrodden on the streets, he further said.
RJD’s message to Congress
By ignoring the Congress’ demands for seats, the RJD is also indirectly telling the grand old party that it does not need it in Bihar as it has now found a good alternative in Left parties, Kumar added.
He also said that the RJD, under the leadership of Tejashwi, is trying hard to project itself as an ‘A to Z’ party and now, with the support of Left parties, it can think of expanding its social base. Although it is also an undeniable fact that Muslims and Yadavs would continue to be the core vote bank of the RJD, he added.
Senior RJD leader and state party spokesperson Chitranjan Gagan said that his party is always ready to accept the leadership of the Congress at the central level but the party had to understand importance of regional parties. “Left parties have their influences in some pockets of Bihar but the Congress has nowhere. The Congress should accept the reality and behave accordingly,” he remarked.
Political analyst Pravin Bagi said the Congress has no option but to depend on the RJD for keeping itself relevant in the state’s electoral politics. It needs the RJD for another reason. If ever the grand old party reaches closer to forming the government in the Centre, it will need the support of the RJD, he added.
Bagi said that Left parties have also to depend on the RJD as they could not do much by contesting elections on their own.
Senior RJD leader and party spokesman Shakti Yadav said the RJD is not going to sideline the Congress when its relationship with left parties is improving. There was no inner contradiction among the grand alliance’s allies as they joined hands to extend support to the Opposition’s presidential candidate, Yashwant Sinha.
The RJD’s chief spokesperson Bhai Birendra said there is no misgiving among grand alliance partners and they are united against the Narendra Modi government’s programmes and policies. Comments by state Congress leaders against the RJD have no significance, he added.
RJD, Left over the years
The RJD’s relationship with the Left parties, particularly with the CPI(ML), has come a long way. There was once a time when the CPI(ML) had waged a war against the alleged ‘fiefdom’ of former RJD MP Mohammed Shahabuddin in Siwan district. Former JNU Student’s Union (JNUSU) president and an activist of CPI(ML)’s AISA, Chandrashekhar, was shot dead by sharpshooters allegedly employed by Shahabuddin in Siwan in 1997.
The RJD had even fielded a Muslim candidate against Kanhaiya Kumar, who was fighting the Lok Sabha election in 2019 on a CPI ticket against firebrand BJP leader Giriraj Singh from Begusarai, thus cutting into secular votes.
Shakti Yadav said that his party`s alliance with the CPI and the CPM has been quite old and it has also worked together with the CPI(ML) on issues of public interest. “It is not an alliance of convenience but of people from various social groups,” he added.