The outcome of the elections held in Bihar have given an absolute majority to the `Mahagatbandhan’ of the JD(S)-RJD-Congress with the first of these led by Mr. Nitish Kumar the incumbent Chief Minister, while the second is led by the several times former Chief Minister, Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav. Left biting the dust is the NDA led by the BJP with other partners such as the newly formed HAM. Much has been made out of the fact that the Prime Minister himself campaigned hard for the NDA, but did not make a good showing. Public Affairs specialists have termed the election something of a referendum on the politics of the BJP and have concluded that this is a rebuff to the economics and politics of the BJP, with the latter being characterized by hate mongering and vitiating of the atmosphere in the country.
Much is also being made out of the fact that in the present elections persons of different national minorities have been elected on various party tickets, and this is being projected as a victory of the people. While one may have differing views on each of these matters, there are certain inescapable observations that need to be made.
It is a fact that these elections have taken place in the background of escalating rise of prices of commodities and essentials in the country. This has placed severe hardship on the backs of the common people who squarely blame the Centre for the situation. Furthermore, part of the campaign of the BJP had promoted slogans such as `empowerment before entitlement’, implying that the people of Bihar had somehow a sense of entitlement to a good life that they did not deserve and the remedy was to offer themselves to vicious exploitation by big industrial houses and international players and open up their economy even more and thus somehow gain empowerment and work towards a good life, rather than expect a good life through the support of the State. By simply parroting lines emanating from right-wing think tanks of the west, the BJP embarked on the path to disaster. In the year and a half since the last general elections, the people of India and of Bihar have seen that the NDA Government is committed more to the so-called India Inc. as well as to big foreign players than to the people of India. Thus, what is seen here is the clash between the needs of the people on the one hand, and the impossibility of the NDA led Government at the Centre to fulfil their basic demands.
The above said, Mr. Nitish Kumar himself had received much praise from various quarters for having brought `development’ to Bihar and for having transformed what is somehow considered the `sick man’ of India into the mainstream. By restoring order to what was considered an ungovernable state, Mr. Nitish Kumar had created the conditions for `civil society’ to re-establish itself for economic activity to take place. While Bihar continues to lag behind the rest of the country on most development indices, some `progress’ had taken place, which has created the situation of the people of Bihar voting in the `lesser of the evils’. One cannot ignore the role of big money in contesting elections, and this therefore begs the question as to whether it is indeed the will of the people that prevails or something else.
In the year 2015, as India nears the 70th anniversary of its independence from colonial rule, an analysis of the results of elections such as these presents an opportunity to take an audit of the polity that came into being and what it has evolved to, and where one must go from here. The man on the street, without exception, believes that the entire political class is to be despised. The fact that periodic elections lead to the replacing of one set of political parties by another to form the Government is a legacy of the post-independence arrangements, which were first dominated by the Indian National Congress. As capitalism advanced, and as the Westminster model which had a nominal opposition in Houses of Legislature transformed into vicious competition for state power, due to the contention between various powerful sections of industrial houses, big agriculturalists, combined with uneven development across the country, which led to the rise of regional parties, so did the character of the polity. That said, even today the economic and political system in the country does not serve the needs of the majority of the population, not even providing basic necessities. Thus, the people of India, who are far from `empowered’ merely remain a voting cattle for this or that section of the contending sections of the ruling elites. This latter today stands divided into camps that want to be rapidly integrated into the world imperialist system and emerge as partners of Anglo-American imperialism, and transfer the cost of this transformation to the backs of the people and viciously exploit them in order to emerge as a major player, and a camp that wants to carry on as before and look inward if possible. Furthermore, as the bulk of the population continues to be agricultural, it is not possible for this sector to get integrated at the rate envisaged by the most rapacious sectors. Thus in the political sphere, the tussle has transformed into the opposing vision of these camps. That said, neither of these has really anything to do with the people of India, who remain as unempowered as they possibly can be. Thus, the present time is as good as any to ask whether the dispensation in place is ever going to solve the needs of the people and truly empower them. By bringing up a slogan to taunt the people of India, the BJP has willy-nilly managed to bring this question to the centrestage, and this opportunity is not to be lost.
The people of India have also, wittingly or otherwise, have spoken and have rejected the hate-mongering and divisive politics of the BJP that tried to whip up the most narrow chauvinist sentiments. While the history of India has been one where peoples have migrated into and settled down, giving rise to civilization(s), and while the people of India today breathe the same air, and are indeed of the same creed, they have shown that they will not be fooled by divisive tactics.
Furthermore, it has been shown time and time again, that it is the state and its agencies that have been behind violence that erupts from time to time. In the recent past, large sections of the society have come forward, despite facing threats, direct as well as indirect and have voiced their concerns. This amounts to a broad based movement in defence of the right to conscience, an intrinsic human quality, for which over millenia our forbears have struggled and fought and have sharpened into the essence of civilized life. This steam should not be left untapped. It should be used to pry open the lid of the pressure-cooker under which the people and the nations that constitute India live.
In the aftermath of the Bihar election, there are already those who are worried that the vision of India Inc. may be compromised. There is already a rush to push forward the FDI reforms, and pretend that nothing has happened. The movement in India which has been fragmentary and piece-meal in the past must come together now and ask what is what. Let them ask what is what. Let those who are interested in the future of India and her people ask what is the contract between the people and the State? If indeed the state is to be a guarantor of security (`raksha’ in the language of Indian political thought) there must first be happiness (`sukh’) [so contemptuously referred to as `entitlement’ by the BJP ruling elites], since without happiness, there is no reason for security to exist. Viewed through this prism, it is not sufficient that the Indian state can offer its existence as the reason for its continued existence, and it must necessarily face this question. Only through the dyad of sukh and raksha can one solve the problems of Indian political thought and throw open the doors to the solution of its problems, and that of the people of India.
by B. Ananthanarayan