After Karnataka, the BJP/NDA Must Be Made to Bite the Dust in Bihar

The results of Karnataka Assembly elections have given a big jolt to the BJP’s dream of emerging as the unstoppable national alternative to the Congress. At a time when the Congress is battling an enormous crisis of credibility, it has managed to stage a comeback in Karnataka simply because the BJP’s crisis of credibility proved much bigger than what the Congress is facing. Apart from the ignominy of losing its first southern bastion, the BJP must also be feeling the blow of the deflating of the Modi balloon. Earlier, the BJP had lost in Himachal Pradesh despite the supposedly magical presence of ‘NaMo’ as the star campaigner, and now the experience was repeated in Karnataka. Modi advocates can now only claim that the BJP would have ended up a bigger loser without Modi campaigning!

With the account in Karnataka settled for the time being, the focus now shifts to the election-bound states Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Delhi where elections are due later this year. Speculations are rife that the Lok Sabha elections may well be held together with these Assembly elections. However, in terms of electoral presence there is still no significant third force in these four states and electoral politics remains effectively polarised between the Congress and the BJP. The two states where the political situation seems most open and dynamic at the moment are Bihar and Jharkhand. Incidentally, Karnataka apart, Bihar is where the BJP had reaped maximum political gains in the last ten years. In both Bihar and Jharkhand, the BJP managed to overtake and overshadow the Congress as the foremost all-India party of the ruling classes sharing power in collaboration with major regional parties, the JD(U) in Bihar and the JMM and AJSU in Jharkhand.

However, in the run-up to the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP finds itself quite in a tight corner in both Bihar and Jharkhand. Power has slipped out of its hands in Jharkhand as the JMM withdrew support. Under President’s Rule, it is the Congress which has seized the initiative through the backdoors – with the threat of Assembly dissolution dangling like the proverbial sword of Damocles, the Congress hopes to coerce the JMM into forming a coalition government on Congress terms or face mid-term elections, maybe along with early Lok Sabha elections. The revolutionary Left must take the lead to demand an immediate end to the ongoing proxy rule of the Congress to pave the way for fresh elections. While the ruling classes and their parties blame political instability as the main problem for Jharkhand, the Left will have to rally the forces of people’s struggle to save Jharkhand from the clutches of corporate plunder.

If the JMM has dumped the BJP in Jharkhand, it is the JD(U), one of the oldest allies of the BJP which has started threatening to part ways. The JD(U) is of course in no hurry to take the final step yet – it has granted enough time to the BJP to declare its PM nominee by the end of 2013. The JD(U) is aware that Narendra Modi is the fault-line for the BJP/NDA and it is exploiting it to the hilt. If the JD(U) has to plan a future independent of the BJP, it will of course need much more than just the no-Modi card. This is where Nitish Kumar needs considerable cooperation from the Congress, and the Congress has so far played ball by vaguely acknowledging Kumar’s demand for special category status for Bihar. On his part, Nitish Kumar has repeatedly said that the JD(U) will support any government after the next Lok Sabha elections that will grant special category status for Bihar. In other words, if and when the JD(U) and BJP part ways, the JD(U) will seek to justify the break-up in the name of both secularism and development of Bihar.

The Left must intervene powerfully in this ongoing political debate and realignment in Bihar. Whether it is the question of resisting the BJP or fighting for the development of Bihar, it is the revolutionary Left which has waged the most powerful and sustained battle in Bihar. If the BJP has still managed to grow in Bihar it is because of the politics of opportunism and pro-feudal position of the RJD and JD(U). Apart from halting Advani’s rathyatra, Lalu Prasad did nothing of substance to check the BJP’s growth in Bihar. On the contrary by allowing feudal private armies like the Ranveer Sena a free hand to perpetrate massacres with impunity, he did everything to appease and strengthen the feudal forces. Nitish Kumar has of course had an open alliance with the BJP and his entire government has been dedicated to serve feudal interests, be it the question of disbanding the Amir Das commission to save the Ranveer Sena and its political patrons or dumping the report of the Land Reforms Commission. Yet like Lalu Prasad’s rhetoric of anti-Advani symbolism, he too is trying to prove his secular credentials by pretending to target Narendra Modi. The Left must call Nitish Kumar’s ‘secular’ bluff and dare him to sever ties with the BJP and apologise for having been such a loyal partner of the BJP in Bihar and in national politics.

Nitish Kumar’s politics of ‘special category status’ for Bihar also needs to be exposed in no uncertain terms. There can be no denying the fact that Bihar lags behind the rest of India in terms of most socio-economic parameters and it must get special assistance to improve its conditions and overcome the historical baggage of backwardness. The crux of the matter is what should be the direction of this development. There are two diametrically opposite visions of development of Bihar. The Left vision focuses on land reforms as the key to democratisation of land relations and development of the rural economy while the vision being articulated by Nitish Kumar seeks to subject Bihar to a plundering alliance of feudal and corporate interests. The key theme in Nitish Kumar’s advocacy of ‘special category status’ is the exemptions promised for private investment. According to him, the development of Bihar has so far been funded by government expenditure and once Bihar gets ‘special category status’ development will be driven by private investment. For Nitish Kumar, ‘special category status’ is thus a codeword for wholesale corporatisation and privatisation.

The Bihar government has already begun to move in this direction. After quasi-privatisation of healthcare through the PPP model, the government has begun to privatise electricity distribution network in the state, beginning with the four key towns of Patna, Muzaffarpur, Gaya and Bhagalpur. And in April, overriding opposition from all quarters, the government passed the private universities legislation. The process of land acquisition for setting up private universities has already begun. The experience of privatisation of essential services has proved disastrous for the common people in every part of India. In a state like Bihar where the state government itself holds that more than half the population is mired in poverty, the consequences of privatisation are likely to be particularly adverse. It will essentially mean utter deprivation for the poor and complete denial of their basic rights.

It was quite revealing that just after Nitish Kumar’s ‘Adhikar’ show in Delhi, MNREGA workers were treated to an absolute reduction in their wages from Rs 144 to Rs 138, Rs 30 short of the stipulated minimum wages in the state. Faced with spirited protests of the rural poor, the government has been forced to raise the wages, but they are still short of the stipulated minimum level. Depressed wages, lucrative tax exemptions and a dedicated administration ready to transfer all resources to private hands – this is Nitish Kumar’s mantra for inviting corporate investment in Bihar. His politics of ‘adhikar’ is all about facilitating a corporate takeover of feudal-dominated backward Bihar. While the BJP and JD(U) negotiate the future of their alliance, the Left will have to hold the alliance accountable for the utter failure and betrayal of the NDA government in Bihar and stall the disastrous strategy of pushing Bihar into the trap of corporatisation and privatisation.

The fact that the two key all-India parties of the ruling classes are simultaneously caught in a deep crisis of credibility is a welcome sign for the Left movement. The crisis of the Congress and the BJP is also bound to affect the coalitions led by them. The cracks developing in the NDA in Bihar are a case in point. We must realise that the cracks above reflect the contradictions sharpening on the ground which are making it difficult for the ruling coalition to continue in its old way. Instead of lending a helping hand to Nitish Kumar to weather the crisis, the Left must take full advantage of the crisis to step up its own role and advance the Left agenda. Contrary to the suicidal opportunist prescription of forming uncritical alliances with regional parties in the name of a so-called third alternative, the Left must make the most of the present situation to intensify popular struggles to deliver a big blow to the neo-liberal order and bring about a policy reversal in the interest of the people. The revolutionary Left must take all-out initiatives to orient the people’s movement in this direction.

Box matter 1

Bihar Human Rights Commission Indicts State Government for Police Brutality

On 2 May 2012, CPI(ML) Central Committee member and former MLA Comrade Rajaram Singh and other activists leading the struggle against the murder of a young panchayat mukhiya (head) Chhotu Kushwaha in Aurangabad district of Bihar were brutally beaten up by the police in the course of a peaceful demonstration. Rajaram Singh in particular was singled out for sustained public beating by senior cops, following which he was jailed. Two women activists - Usha Sharan, District Convenor of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch and ex-mukhiya Kiran Yadvendu were also badly beaten up. Shocking photographic images testified to this brutality.

The Bihar Human Rights Commission investigated allegations of custodial violence, and has recently concluded that the allegations are true, and has directed the State Government to pay compensation of Rs 1 lakh to Rajaram Singh and Rs 50,000 to two other activists.

For the Bihar Government under Nitish Kumar, police brutality has become the norm: Forbesganj firing on minorities, Madhubani firing on students, brutal lathicharge on teachers which the Supreme Court also noted, and the Aurangabad brutality are just some of the worst instances. After the Supreme Court’s scathing observations on the lathicharge on teachers, the Bihar Human Rights Commission’s observations are yet another glaring indictment of the repressive State Government. The State Government must lose no time in complying with the directive and paying the compensation, and must sack the DM and SP of the district who presided over this brutality which took place in their presence.

Excerpts of the Commission’s observations and conclusions are below:

“The Commission is satisfied on seeing the visuals that Raja Ram Singh was mercilessly beaten by the police. There is nothing on the record to indicate that he committed any act of vandalism, destruction of property etc. or that he incited the people to engage in such acts. Raja Ram Singh is a former two-time member of the Bihar Legislative Assembly (MLA), member of the Central Committee of the CPI (ML) and National General Secretary of the Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha. As a public figure and an activist, he had every right to participate in the protest meeting which had been organized to highlight the police inaction.

Similarly, applicant Usha Sharan is the District Convenor of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch and applicant Kiran Yadvendu is an ex-Mukhiya, and as public figure they had right to participate in the protest meeting. They were also allegedly physically beaten by the police in the occurrence even though were simply bye-standers. It may be relevant to mention here that they met the Chairperson of the Commission and showed their injuries on their bodies in presence of the then Secretary of the Commission Smt. Vandana Kini while presenting complaints on 9.5.2012. The Commission found clear marks of injury on different parts of their body. Photographs showing marks of injury have been annexed and they are part of the record. There are no specific visuals showing them being assaulted by the police but the Commission is inclined to think that they too sustained injuries as a result of the beatings by the police in the same occurrence. As in the case of Raja Ram Singh, there is nothing to indicate that they either committed any acts of vandalism etc. themselves or incited others to commit such acts. The police action viz. beatings, therefore was uncalled for and unjustified.

In the facts and circumstances, the Commission is satisfied that all the three victims suffered violation of human rights at the hands of the police and are entitled to compensation.

In the facts and circumstances, the Commission is of the view that the compensation of rupees one lakh in the case of Raja Ram Singh and rupees fifty thousand each in the cases of Usha Sharan and Kiran Yadvendu would be just and adequate.

The Commission accordingly directs the State Government through Secretary, Department of Home, to pay compensation of rupees one lakh to Shri Raja Ram Singh and rupees fifty thousand each to Smt. Usha Sharan and Smt. Kiran Yadvendu within six weeks. Put up on 28.6.2013 awaiting compliance report.”

Box matter 2

Bihar Treasury Fraud

Excerpts from CAG Report 2011-12 AC bills of high magnitude

An analysis of the AC bill drawals in VLC database as well as test check of records in the

Administrative departments revealed that the magnitude of the amounts drawn on AC bills during 2009-12 were abnormally high...AC bills valuing more than one lakh and above (upto hundreds of crore) in each case constituted 99.76 per cent of the total funds drawn on AC bills during 2009-12. The large number of contingent bills of abnormally high magnitude indicated that recourse to AC bill mode drawals was taken in a routine manner for meeting regular expenditure of the Government. Test check of records in the Administrative departments revealed that most of the drawals were made on lump-sum basis for implementation of schemes both under Plan as well as Non-Plan and

Revenue as well as Capital heads....

The acknowledgement by the Government of its inability to submit DC bills for capital and revenue expenditure on schemes by way of AC drawals as form TC-39 was not made for DC bill of this type of expenditure confirmed the audit contention that these lump sum drawals did not qualify for drawal on AC bills....

Further AC bill mode drawal in routine manner for regular expenditure under various schemes itself was violation of the core principles of drawal as contingent expenditure. Drawal of AC bills in the Month of March

The State Government’s Standing Order (No. 2561 of 1998) prescribes that the Government expenditure should be spread evenly during the financial year barring some special circumstances where the occasions may arise for an uneven ratio of expenditure. Thus rush of expenditure in order to avoid lapse of appropriations in the closing months is contrary to the Rules.

...during 2007-12, the amount of drawal during the month of March ranged between 29 per cent and 54 per cent of the funds drawn on AC bills during a year though in percentage terms there had been steady decline in the drawal of funds through AC bills in the month of March during the last three years. Substantial drawals in the month of March coupled with high magnitude of amount in each case as pointed out earlier were indicative of the fact that likelihood of actual expenditure of such drawals within the concerned financial years were remote and withdrawals were made merely to avoid lapse of appropriations....

On this being pointed out (October 2012), the Finance Department stated (November, 2012) that drawal of funds in the month of March is to ensure regular flow of funds for construction purposes which peaks during January to June. The reply validates the audit observation that the funds drawn in March are not actually spent within the financial year. Further, instead of drawing funds in March to meet the expenditure in the ensuing financial year, appropriation for the purpose should be sought in the Budget Estimates of the next financial year itself.

The department further stated that in case of Centrally Sponsored Schemes the receipt of Central share in month of March is the compelling factor for release of matching State Share during March only. Audit is of the view that it would be more appropriate to take up the issue with the Government of India rather than flouting the Codal provisions.

The fact remains that drawal of funds in the month of March without actual expenditure is indicative of fiscal indiscipline. Drawal of funds on AC bills

... Withdrawals of fund under Plan heads through AC bill mode was indicative of the fact that object level planning was absent, items of expenditure were not known while drawing the amount and thus moneys were simply drawn for future use awaiting finalization of implementation modalities and to avoid lapse of appropriations. As a result, the Government funds so drawn on the pretext of immediate requirement were allowed to be parked outside Consolidated Fund at the end of each financial year and kept either in Personal Deposit accounts, remittance heads or in bank accounts. Money drawn on AC bills and retained with Drawing and Disbursing Officers

As per Article 202 of the Constitution, State Government may spend money within the authorized appropriation during the same financial year. Further, Note below Rule 300 of BTC 1937 and Rule 177 of BTC 2011 provides that the unspent balance of the amount should be refunded to the treasury at the earliest possible opportunity within the financial year in which the amount is drawn. In course of test-check the following instances of drawal of funds for construction purpose and its irregular retention with DDOs were noticed:

...government funds (Rs. 123.38 crore) irregularly drawn for construction purposes on AC bills on the pretext of immediate payment were either irregularly retained by the DDOs themselves or transferred to the executing divisions/agencies with delay ranging from two months to one year after the end of the financial year. Further Rule 177 of BTC 2011 requires that a certificate shall be furnished by the DDOs to the effect that funds drawn on the contingent bills shall be spent within the same financial year. However, the funds were carried forward to the next financial year without any authority to incur expenditure in subsequent financial year.

3.2.9. Funds drawn on AC bills and parked outside Government Accounts

It was observed that considerable portion of the funds drawn on AC bills was lying either with the DDOs or with the executing agencies even after the lapse of financial year in which the funds were drawn and had been parked in various Personal Deposit accounts and bank accounts. The overall picture of the funds drawn on AC bill and parked outside Government accounts as witnessed in the test checked departments/offices reflected that as on 31 March 2012, out of funds amounting to Rs. 576.83 crore drawn, Rs. 271.38 crore (three PSUs-Rs. 215.71 crore, 11 District Offices– Rs. 55.67 crore) was parked in various bank accounts...

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