By Dr. Gyan Pathak
Political signals emanating from Bihar are important for two major reasons – first, these could drastically alter the contours of politics in the state, and secondly, it could potentially impact the communal politics across the country.
The most recent changes include defection in All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) led by Asaduddin Owaisi. Four out of five of its MLAs have defected to (Rashtriya Janata Dal) RJD led by Tejaswi Yadav pushing the latter’s tally in the 243 member Bihar Vidhan Sabha to 80.
If we consider RJD’s position alone, the simple comparison of its present strength with the 2020 Bihar Vidhan Sabha election result, we find that the party has been able to increase its tally by five seats while maintaining it being largest political party in the legislative assembly. Now RJD’s political strength and clout has clearly improved to a level of 2015 general election in the state. It means, the RJD has clearly been able to reverse its fall in terms of seats in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha.
As the swelling of a mound suggest proportionate digging of earth somewhere, the swelling of the number of MLAs in RJD camp clearly indicates weakening of other political parties in their opposition. The direct impact is on Owaisi’s pan-India party ambitions. He has been championing Muslim politics in the country for quite some time and his party AIMIM had been able to win 5 seats in the 2020 Bihar Vidhan Sabha election. Defecting four of them is a severe blow to his Muslim politics and his dreams.
The immediate adverse effect of this defection is seen in ground level Muslim politics in the four districts of Seemanchal regions of Bihar comprising Kishangaj, Araria, Purnia, and Katihar where AIMIM has contested 24 seats and won five. This defection is seen as change in the defecting MLA’s mind in particular and Muslim’s political psyche in general. It is in fact a realization among them that consolidation of Muslim votes under AIMIM’s communal Muslim politics has ultimately been strengthening the Hindutva communal politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and harming the real interest of the Muslim community that has been at receiving end under the NDA government in the state and the centre.
It is not a small setback for the AIMIM, the Hyderabad-centric outfit having a dream of becoming pan-India force to reckon with, since it has been delivered to the party only months after the setback it received during the Uttar Pradesh Vidhan Sabha election. The changing Muslim’s political psyche was obvious and by and large the Muslim voters voted for Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party (SP). In both the states, Muslim voters now seem not only on denial mode to play the communal Muslim politics of Owaisi, but are also denying support to the non-communal political parties which are in alliance with BJP as Janata Dal (United) in Bihar, or perceived as a suspect or detrimental to their interest as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in Uttar Pradesh. Showing a clear mature voting preference to parties like SP and RJD having an impeccable track record of anti-BJP and anti-Hindutva politics, is a step forward in political arena of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, if spread to other parts of the country, it may drastically alter the political fortunes of communal political parties like AIMIM and the BJP during the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
As of Bihar politics, the defection is important for other reasons too. It was only few months back in March this year, three MLAs of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) have joined the BJP taking the party’s strength in Bihar Vidhan Sabha to 77 and gained the tag of largest political party in the legislative assembly overtaking the RJD’s strength of 75 at that time.. However, now RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav paid them with the same coin by getting 4 MLAs from AIMIM, and overtaking the BJP’s tally and becoming again the largest political party in the Bihar Vidhan Sabha.
With this change, as of June 30, 2022, 243-member Bihar Vidhan Sabha has 80 members from RJD, 19 from Indian National Congress (INC), 12 from Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, 4 from Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) the HAM(S), 2 from Communist Party of India (Marxist), 2 from Communist Party of India (CPI), 1 from AIMIM, 77 from the BJP, 45 from JD(U), and 1 independent.
The JD(U) leader and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s disquiet is therefore understandable. Even in OBC politics he is not faring well because he has been unable to enlarge his caste support base chiefly beyond Kurmis. Moreover, his alliance partner BJP, realizing the limit of communal politics is trying its best to grab more benefit from the very OBC politics that is mainstay of the JD(U). Additionally, RJD is the chief beneficiary of the OBC politics, and it seems enlarging its caste support base beyond Yadavas. Its YM (Yadav-Muslim) equation is again becoming stronger, and is most likely to put stronger fight both to JD(U) and the BJP individually, and also NDA jointly if both the party do not part their ways before the Lok Sabha Election in 2024.
Disquieted Nitish Kumar has also been unhappy with its alliance partner BJP for quite some time. He took just opposite stand as of the BJP on several issues having regional and national importance, which included conducting caste census in the state as part of OBC politics and opposition to CAA targeting communal politics. The rift between the two has become even more pronounced in the BJP leader’s attempt to rattle CM Nitish Kumar by demanding population control law while the central BJP is busy in raising emotive issues like Kashi, Mathura, and Common Civil Code. The two BJP leaders’ outrageous comment against prophet Mohammed has put the nation on fire and also likely to impact consolidation of votes on communal lines.
Bihar is thus undergoing political churning in which at least two political signals have emerged – one may go against the communal politics in which forces like AIMIM and the BJP has much on stake, and the other is re-emerging OBC politics showing a tendency to spread across the states in the country that may affect the political prospects of the regional parties. As for the national political parties, BJP is already trying to put them together in an effort to create a balance between the two, while the Congress and the Left parties which are both against the caste and communal politics, would need to find new ways to wean away the emotionally surcharged voters from their communal and casteist mindset to the real predicaments they are facing now. Additionally, the prospects of regional parties becoming stronger, the National parties have no option left but to go for grand alliance or further suffer unprecedented political loss. (IPA Service)