Bihar Rebuffs NDA and UPA Rallies for Transformation and for a Powerful People’s Alternative

The CPI(ML)’s massive Parivartan Rally on 9 November in Patna powerfully articulated people’s aspirations for thoroughgoing social and political transformation and a people’s political alternative in Bihar and in the country. The rally’s slogan – ‘Neither Delhi’s Loot Nor Nitish’s Lies – Unite for Change’ – clearly struck a chord with Bihar’s poorest and most oppressed, who turned Patna’s Gandhi Maidan into a virtual sea of red flags with their enthusiastic participation.

Many observers commented on the stark contrast between the people’s Parivartan Rally and the ‘official rally’ by the ruling JD(U) just five days earlier. Nitish Kumar’s show in the same Gandhi Maidan on 4 November had enjoyed the backing of the entire Government machinery. Misuse of government and administrative power to promote the rally was rampant, with district magistrates issuing official orders aimed at ensuring the participation of workers in the rally. Unimaginable amounts of money were spent on the JD(U) rally, including amounts raised and pocketed by JD(U) leaders in the name of the rally. 4 trains and 15,000 buses were booked to ferry people to the rally. 10000 policemen and 1000 magistrates swelled the crowds in the JD(U) rally. JD(U)’s mafia politicians Munna Shukla, Ranvir Yadav, Anant Singh, and Sunil Pandey flexed all their muscle to boost the rally. The success of the spectacle was supposed to be sealed with money, muscle and media power.

But at the Parivartan Rally five days later, the people of Bihar gave the rulers’ rally a fitting rebuff, effectively cutting it down to size. The Parivartan Rally matched the size and strength of the rulers’ rally without the help of money and government machinery, and outshining the sterile, mafia- and police-dominated official show by far in terms of the sheer energy, response, and discipline of the mass of participants.

Among the Parivartan Rally participants were the villagers of Bhajanpura (Forbesganj) where the police firing claimed 4 lives last year; dalit students from Ara; and victims of police lathicharge at Aurangabad and firing at Madhubani.

The Parivartan Rally gave voice to the enormous sense of betrayal and resentment felt by Bihar’s poor against the hollow pro-poor and pro-rights posturing of the Nitish Government, which has only protected the privileges of the feudal and communal forces and patronised mafia politicians. If the Parivartan Rally called for a rebuff of Bihar’s NDA Government, it also called the bluff of the kind of ‘change’ being touted by opposition leader Laloo Yadav. For one thing, Laloo’s own 15-year rule in Bihar saw some of the worst scams and massacres of dalits. For another, Laloo today, along with Ram Vilas Paswan, is an arch defender of the corrupt and anti-people Congress regime at the Centre. Any promise of ‘change’ from such a quarter cannot command any credibility.

Leaders of the All India Left Coordination, Bihar Secretaries of CPI and CPI(M), and some socialist leaders also addressed the Parivartan Rally. The success of the Parivartan Rally pointed to the potential for a genuine third alternative – both in Bihar and in the country. Again, such a ‘third alternative’ cannot be a mere cobbling together of ideologically and politically compromised non-Congress non-BJP forces towards elections or power-sharing. Rather, the Rally asserted the need for and potential of a people’s political alternative, emerging from people’s movements for democracy.

As the sea of red flags fluttered in Gandhi Maidan on 9 November, the winds of change could be felt blowing – not only for a people’s assertion in Bihar but from Bihar towards the rest of the country.

Parivartan Rally: Left Assertion

From all over Bihar, people from villages and towns poured into Patna from the night of 8th November itself, red flags and banners in hand. They had gathered in the state capital for CPI(ML)’s Parivartan Rally in Gandhi Maidan, Patna, on 9 November. With their strength of numbers, enthusiasm, and determination in spite of all the hardships of the journey, Bihar’s poor were making a loud statement. They had stayed away from the Chief Minister’s Adhikar Rally held less than a week ago, and had gathered for ‘Parivartan’ (change) instead.

At noon sharp, the Rally began with songs rendered in memory of the martyrs, by Hirawal and other cultural groups. A memorial for the martyrs had been erected near the dais – paying tribute to Bhaiyyaram Yadav, to those killed in police firing in Forbesganj and Madhubani, and to various other martyred and departed comrades. CPI(ML) General Secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya, politburo members of the CPI(ML) Swadesh Bhattacharya, DP Buxi, Nand Kishor Prasad, Ramji Rai, Kartick Pal, Amar and Ramjatan Sharma, various CCMs of the party, and AILC leaders Comrades Mangat Ram Pasla, RB Rai, and Bhimrao Bansod paid floral tributes to the martyrs.

Bihar CPI(ML) Secretary Comrade Kunal welcomed all participants in the Rally. CPI(ML) CCM KD Yadav spoke on the theme of the Rally. On behalf of the Bihar State Committee, Comrade Arun conducted the proceedings. Addressing the Rally, Comrade Vinod Singh, CPI(ML) MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly called for an assertion of Left-led people’s movements against corporate loot. JNU Students’ Union General Secretary Shakeel Anjum, who hails from Araria district of Bihar, spoke about the dismal state of education and employment in Bihar, and about the growing communal politics in the Araria region and witch-hunt of Muslim youth in Darbhanga in the name of anti-terrorism. He called for students to defeat the communal forces and representatives of the anti-people Bihar and Central Governments in the forthcoming students union elections in Bihar. JNUSU Joint Secretary Piyush was also present on the dais. AILC leaders Comrade Bhimrao Bansod of LNP(L); CPRM leader and former Lok Sabha MP Comrade RB Rai; and Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla of CPM Punjab called for Bihar to show the way for a realignment and assertion of fighting Left forces. CPI State Secretary Rajendra Singh and CPIM State Secretary Vinay Kant Thakur called for Left unity and assertion of the issues of the people. Socialist leaders - former central Minister Devendra Yadav and former Bihar Minister Ramdev Singh Yadav castigated Nitish Kumar as well as former CM Laloo Yadav for betraying the socialist ideals and called for a unity of the fighting Left and genuine socialist forces. Veteran socialist leader Hind Kesri Yadav, former Bihar Minister and anti-liquor movement activist, recounted how Bihar police watched while liquor mafia brutally beat him up last month in Muzaffarpur. When he showed his wounds, agitated people rose up and raised slogans. AICCTU General Secretary Swapan Mukherjee called for the people of Bihar to support the all-India strike called by central TUs on 20-21 February 2013. AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari said that just as massacres had become the hallmark of the Lalu-Rabri regime, gang rape and other assaults on women have become the hallmark of Nitish’s rule. Rajaram Singh, GS of the All India Kisan Mahasabha, who had recently been severely beaten by police in Aurangabad and jailed for a prolonged period, said that the Nitish Government and the Central Govt were both promoting land grab in the name of development, while the Nitish Govt had appeased feudal forces by abandoning the question of land reforms. CPI(ML) CCM and former MP from Bihar, Rameshwar Prasad, and AIALA GS Dhirendra Jha also addressed the Rally.

The main speaker at the Rally was CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar, who said that the countdown for the Nitish Government had begun. By jettisoning the Bandopadhyay recommendations, allowing Ranveer Sena supporters to go berserk, and by making mafia politicians like Sunil Pandey, Anant Singh, Munna Shukla and Ranvir Yadav the icons of his Government, the Nitish Government had clearly shown its loyalty towards feudal and criminal forces.

“Nitish Kumar says he has introduced rule of law in Bihar. But in fact, there are two laws here. When a mastermind of massacres is killed and his supporters ran amok, the DGP preached passivity for the police. But when students, teachers, peasants and minorities raise their demands, the same police rains batons and bullets on them. Perpetrators of the Bathani Tola massacre get a judicial reprieve while innocent Dalits are sentenced to life imprisonment and death in the Amousi case.

Commenting on the CM’s visit to Pakistan, he said it was always welcome to promote goodwill between the neighbouring countries. But, he asked, would not the people of Pakistan ask the CM how come he speaks of secularism and harmony, but he teams up with the BJP and presides over the witch-hunt of Muslim youth falsely branded as ‘Pakistan-backed terrorists’?

He reminded that Nitish Kumar, as a central Minister in 2000, had done nothing to support the demand for special category status for Bihar when the CPI(ML) first raised it. “Bihar is an ordinary state now, but the Government can get Rs 50000 crore from the Centre for MNREGA. But as of now, the Nitish Government does not even distribute the amount it does receive, among workers. So, just greater funds will not ensure employment and development. Just the scale of scams will increase.”

At the Adhikar Rally, Nitish Kumar admitted that the criteria for awarding special category status would have to be revised in order that Bihar can avail it. Once that is done, several other states like UP, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Odisha would be equally legitimate claimants for the special category status, in view of the relevant indices like poverty, malnutrition, literacy and other social criteria. “Why did Nitish Kumar not opt for the logical route of a united campaign for special category status with similarly placed states, rather than an exclusive agenda for Bihar? Clearly, Nitish Kumar sought to make special category status an exclusive campaign theme for the JD(U) towards the 2014 elections, to divert people’s attention from the glaring failures of the state government, against which people’s resentment was acutely visible in the protests that greeted the Adhikar Yatra every step of the way, eventually forcing it to be called off. The JD(U) would like to make the Special Category status a bargaining chip to do business with whichever party/combination of parties comes to power after 2014.”

The ‘Bihari Asmita’ being advocated so aggressively by Nitish Kumar and his colleagues, exploits factors like the poverty, out-migration, and backwardness that are suffered by Bihar’s people. But in Nitish Kumar’s scheme of things, the ‘asmita’ (identity) is to be controlled by the feudal lobby and the mafia brigade – precisely the very same forces who bear the greatest responsibility for Bihar’s pervasive and persistent backwardness.

He also commented on former CM Laloo Yadav who had also begun talking of ‘Parivartan’. He said that Bihar had not forgotten Laloo’s misrule, and leaders like Laloo and Ram Vilas Paswan cannot talk of ‘change’ while acting as lieutenants of the corrupt Congress regime at the centre. Comrade Dipankar called for a ‘third alternative’, but emphasised that such an alternative could not just be an opportunist realignment for the sake of power. It must in fact be an assertion of people’s movements, with a radical, fighting Left at its core. Bihar, he said, had always shown the way – be it during the freedom struggle or the 1974 movement for democracy – and now again, it was time for Bihar to show how a vigorous Left movement could rejuvenate politics and pave the way for a people’s political alternative.

Rousing slogans and responsive applause greeted Comrade Dipankar’s speech. At the end, AISA State Secretary Abhyuday read out an 8-point resolution, which included resolutions against the corruption, corporate plunder and pro-corporate anti-people policies of the UPA Government; against repression and feudal-communal politics promoted by the Nitish Government; demanding CBI enquiry into the murders of Bhaiyyaram Yadav and Chhotu Kushwaha and the Forbesganj massacre; and to turn the February 20-21 Strike called by central TUs into a Bharat Bandh.

Coming on the heels of Nitish Kumar’s 4 November Rally, comparisons were inevitable. All observers, including many intellectuals of Patna, as well as media personnel, remarked on the stark contrast between the Government-sponsored rulers’ rally of 4 November, and the lively, responsive gathering at the CPI(ML) Rally. Even in terms of sheer numbers, the CPI(ML) rally had comfortably matched the ‘official’ rally, flooding Gandhi Maidan with red flags. Many media reports recounted how the CPI(ML) rallyists had come, without the aid of any sponsored trains and cavalcade of buses; how they sustained themselves with little bundles of sattu and chana; and on their self-discipline and boundless enthusiasm. One paper recounted how, a group returning from the Rally, rendered rousing revolutionary songs and spontaneously composed songs in Bhojpuri against the Nitish Government, late into the night as they waited for a train at Patna junction.

The Parivartan Rally was a vigorous and timely assertion of the urgent need of Left politics and people’s movements against the corruption, corporate plunder, and repression unleashed by Governments at the State and Centre alike, and by UPA and NDA alike.

Box Matter

The Rulers’ Rally of 4th November

In Bihar, the JD(U)’s ‘Adhikar Rally’ at Patna ostensibly showcasing the demand for Special Category Status for Bihar, was essentially a JD(U) election rally for 2014. But for the last three months the entire state government and administrative machinery were totally preoccupied with rally preparations. With the Adhikar Yatra and the rally, the line of demarcation between the main ruling party and the state administration has completely disappeared in Bihar. Not long ago, the Supreme Court commented on the ‘perpetual absence of the State of Bihar’ from the proceedings relating to conjoined twins whose family was seeking medical aid. This glaring absence in the sphere of welfare was in stark contrast to the State’s overwhelming preoccupation with the Adhikar Yatra and rally.

Mafia Politicos Ruled the Show

Notorious criminal politicians were among the most vocal champions of and mobilisers for the Adhikar Rally. Foremost among these, of course, was Munna Shukla, lodged in Muzaffarpur jail, (husband of JD(U) MLA Annu Shukla), who made an extortion phone call from jail to a director of an educational institution, demanding Rs 2 crore for the Adhikar Rally. Munna Shukla also reportedly distributed leaflets for the Rally at a court appearance. Another prominent face of the Rally campaign was Ranvir Yadav, another convicted JD(U) leader whose wife is a JD(U) MLA, who grabbed police rifle and fired at crowds protesting during Nitish Kumar’s Adhikar Yatra at Khagaria. Then there was Anant Singh, the notorious criminal JD(U) MLA from Mokama, known for being the biggest land grabber in Patna. Huge billboards with images of Anant Singh could be seen on every roundabout and street corner in Patna before the District administration removed a few a couple of days before the rally. Anant Singh and his supporters made themselves prominent at the Rally with their unruly presence.

Misuse of State Power

The actual expenditure on the JD(U) rally was estimated by newspapers to be over 52 crore, while the amount raised in the name of the rally and pocketed down the line by JD(U) leaders is estimated to be an astronomical 400 crore.

An order issued by the Patna DM (see image above), instructing closure of sand-mining from 2-4 November. Such an order was shamelessly issued to facilitate participation in the rally. Similarly, the pulse polio campaign scheduled to start statewide on 4 November (a Sunday) was postponed to 6 November to facilitate participation of ASHAs in the 4 November rally.

Ration of last two months diverted to provide for rallyists. In a pre- rally meeting at Patna, Food Minister Shyam Rajak brought a British DFID official to attend it. A woman panchayat representative belonging to CPI(ML), Comrade Shakuntala, raised the issue forcefully and compelled the Minister to beat a retreat. Later, Comrade Shakuntala was beaten up by JD(U) goons.

In Sahar, a block agriculture service official convened a peasant meeting in the name of distribution of seeds; but the meeting turned out to be a ploy for mobilizing them for the 4 November rally. CPI(ML)’s Comrade Raiji protested boldly, and the meeting became a referendum against the Adhikar Rally.

The Poor Say, No Thank You

At the rally itself, the poor, minorities and women – constituencies whom Nitish Kumar had wooed with many promises, but who feel utterly betrayed now – were conspicuous by their absence.

We have reports from many villages, of JD(U)-sponsored buses returning empty or nearly empty from dalit/mahadalit settlements, in spite of incentives of cash, food, liquor, and full travel arrangements to and fro. Some of these villages/blocks are Harna, Karpi-Beti, and Kurtha (Arwal); Kaler block, Belsar, Belanv, Bathe, Jehanabad block, Ratni, Ghoshi, Kako, and Makhdumpur (Jehanabad); and many places in Bhojpur

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