Confronting the BJP Gameplan in the Hindi Heartland

(Article by CPI(ML) GS Dipankar Bhattacharya that appeared in DNA daily, 14 April 2014)

Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are undoubtedly the two most crucial states that will decide the final overall outcome of the battle for the 16th Lok Sabha. The BJP’s ambitious Mission 272 revolves heavily around its desperate game plans to secure a dramatic increase in its tallies in these two key battlegrounds. And indeed, most opinion polls predict rich dividends for the BJP in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. But the ground level signals and campaign trends emerging from these states clearly suggest that the hype and hot air unleashed by the BJP would not fetch it the kind of booty predicted by these polls and propagated by the mainstream corporate media.

In UP, the BJP design has been woven around two key components – the Muzaffarnagar riots and Modi’s Varanasi expedition. The riots indeed fetched rich dividends for the BJP in the Assembly elections in Rajasthan and in rural pockets of Delhi, and now Amit Shah is invoking it openly to harvest votes in UP. The implications of Modi’s foray into Varanasi amidst frenzied chants of ‘Har Har Modi’ are also quite obvious in the light of the old Sangh brigade slogan “Ayodhya toh jhanki hai, Kashi-Mathura baaki hai” (Ayodhya is only a prelude to what is going to happen next in Kashi and Mathura) as much as the unmistakable communal overtone of the Modi campaign and the renewed call for Ram Mandir in the belatedly released BJP manifesto.

As far as Bihar is concerned, the BJP’s poll drive began with Narendra Modi’s highly publicised Hunkaar Rally in Patna in last October. The mysterious blasts and the unfortunate casualties that marked the rally presented the BJP with an emotive platform to launch a high-decibel campaign against perceived threats to Modi’s life – the bogey invoked to legitimise the string of fake encounters in post-genocide Gujarat – and advocate the BJP’s agenda for a hard state. But the inspiring and emphatic mass response to the Khabardar Rally organised by the CPI(ML) just two days after the Modi show went a long way to challenge and defuse the BJP game plan.

The aggressive rise of the BJP in Bihar in recent years has obviously been facilitated to a large extent by the opportunist and capitulationist politics of self-styled crusaders of social justice and secularism. While Nitish Kumar deluded himself with the praises he got initially from the BJP camp, the latter quietly and systematically went about the job of spreading its network and consolidating its grip over the political and bureaucratic establishment in Bihar. By the time Nitish Kumar severed his ties with the BJP – partly because of the inherent incompatibility and unsustainability of the overarching social coalition represented by the BJP-JD(U) combine and partly driven by the calculation of emulating the Naveen Patnaik strategy in Bihar – it was too late.

While Nitish Kumar is trying to chart his own course after faithfully serving the BJP for seventeen long years, Ram Vilas Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha have rushed with alacrity to claim the slot vacated by Nitish Kumar in the BJP-led coalition. But the opportunist strategy of these self-seeking leaders has failed to enthuse their ranks and the so-called ‘masterstrokes’ do not really seem to be paying off either for the BJP or for its allies. At the end of the day, the BJP has to rely essentially on its predominantly feudal core and its traditional politics of feudal aggression epitomised most notoriously by the Ranveer Sena which had carried out a series of massacres of the rural poor during the reign of Lalu Prasad and Rabri Devi.

The close organic relationship between the BJP and the Ranveer Sena has always been an open secret in Bihar. One of the first steps the JD(U)-BJP government took after coming to power in November 2005 was to disband the Justice Amir Das Commission which was about to expose the political links of the Ranveer Sena. In recent times the Patna High Court has acquitted en masse all those who had been convicted in connection with massacres perpetrated by the Sena. Brahmeshwar Singh, the notorious chief of the Sena, who was described as Bihar’s Gandhi by BJP leader Giriraj Singh, had expressed his explicit wish to see Modi as PM. Brahmeshwar Singh had contested from Ara as an independent candidate in 2004 when the BJP was not in the fray. And now when the BJP has fielded its own candidate in 2014, Brahmeshwar’s son Indubhushan Singh is supporting the BJP from Ara, choosing instead to contest from Patliputra where the BJP has fielded the former RJD leader Ramkripal Yadav as its candidate!

In a desperate bid to weaken the CPI(ML)’s poll prospects – the party had won from Ara in 1989, finished second in 2004 and third in 2009 – the Sena chose the period of nomination to kill CPI(ML) leader Budhram Paswan. On 24 March, Ara saw two contrasting processions, the cavalcade that accompanied the BJP candidate, former home secretary RK Singh, while filing his nomination, and thousands of people who joined the last journey of their beloved leader Budhram Paswan. CPI(ML) activists are not the only ones who are facing the brunt of the Sena-BJP politics of feudal-communal violence. Popular young teacher Mohammad Akbar Khan who used to offer free tuition to needy students, Hindu and Muslim alike, was gunned down at Piro, the evening before Budhram Paswan was killed in the adjacent Charpokhri block.

At a time when the BJP is trying to vitiate the political atmosphere with its feudal-communal venom and the likes of Nitish Kumar, Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad stand exposed and discredited for their politics of opportunism and betrayal of the people’s cause, the Left must step up its independent political role based on struggles for justice, human dignity and people’s rights. Unfortunately, at this crucial juncture the CPI has once again chosen to side with the ruling party, a thoroughly discredited and rapidly declining JD(U), even as the CPI(ML) is spearheading a spirited and powerful Left rebuff in Bihar and Jharkhand to the aggressive and sinister BJP campaign. The suicidal policy of opportunist alliances with regional parties has run its course and the Left must forge ahead on the basis of popular assertion against the growing threat of corporate and communal subversion of democracy.