Bihar State Assembly election results has taken not only the political analysts but also the people of Bihar into huge surprise. Above all it has further depressed the especially the returnee migrants and the youth of Bihar. Realising the hard fact that they cannot depend upon their government both -state and central- they left their families, their place and all that is their own and migrated due to the distress they suffered due to the backward economy of the state. Due to the totally unplanned and insensitive imposition of the lockdowns, they were forced to walk thousands of mile, some died on the way. All the sufferings and hardships suffered by them, converted itself into anger and led to the resolve to unseat the NDA government from Bihar. This was clearly shown in the crowd that the Mahaghtbandan drew during the electioneering. But the election meets of Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar drew less number of people and in some places, slogans were shouted at them and also onion was thrown at Nitish Kumar.

It is not just the seat tally which has made the BJP and the NDA the major claimant to form the government in Bihar but the arrogance that has been added to a regime that is autocratic, authoritarian and undemocratic is the issue to be addressed now. The manner in which the electioneering was done and the arrogant announcement that the NDA will come back to power and Nitish Kumar will be the Chief Minister had sounded danger signal to the democracy of India. Moreover, the manner in which the counting was done and the results announced is something that does not augur well for democracy. Election Commission itself taking a partisan approach is not new to this country. Like all the other national institutions which have been either domesticated or made sub-servient to the present regime, election commission towing the line of the undemocratic government has once again sounds death knell to this country.

It is common knowledge that Nitish and his government in the last 5 years totally abrogated their responsibility to govern leave alone governance. But above all, they fundamentally and foundationally did not address the issue of corona virus and its spread; they did not respond to the huge humanitarian crisis of the returnee migrants and even till today never formulated policies and programs to address the massive humanitarian crisis of the migrants. Now to claim that his government did everything to respond to the crisis created by corona virus pandemic is falsehood at its worst.

Pre-Election Scenario

To understand the post-election scenario, it is imperative that we understand the pre-election scenario. To begin with, Nitish Kumar’s Janta Dal United (JDU) came up with “7 Nischay part-2″ (Resolve) plan for the state’s development and making it self-reliant in the coming years. This was part of the earlier set of promises made to the public during the ongoing National Democratic Alliance rule.  This resolve plan included the following:  imparting technical education to the youth and promoting entrepreneurship, creating a centre for excellence for promoting quality of training in ITI and polytechnic institutions, setting up district wise mega-skill centres for giving job-oriented training, tool rooms and training centres in each division and a new department for skill development and entrepreneurship, provide 50% cent grants, up to a maximum of 3 lakh rupees, for setting up a new business and on loans of up to  7 lakh rupees, girl students passing class 12 exams will be given  25,000 rupees each, and  50,000 rupees each for passing graduation as financial help.

In addition to these, the resolve plan also promised to increase the participation of women in local administration, police, and in district-level offices, among others through reservations. As against its partner BJPs resolve to bring farmer’s bills which would affect them adversely, JDU promised to provide water to farmers for their crops. It also made electoral promises that every village will get solar-street lights, and solid and liquid waste management plants, along with maintenance and carrying out all projects, including tap water to every house, and building toilets, etc.

Based on the above promises, Nitish Kumar appealed to the voters of Bihar that serving the people is his dharma (duty). He thanked the voters for allowing him to serve Bihar. He further appealed to them to vote him to power so that he can make the state’s development reach new heights and make an efficient and self-reliant Bihar.

With all these promises, JDU retained 122 seats and allotted to BJP  121 seats to fight the election. JDU from its 122 seats, allotted 7 seats to Jitan Ram Manjhi-led Hindustan Awaam Party (Secular) while the BJP gave 11 seats to Vikassheel Insaan Party.

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Patna announced before the election that free COVID-19 vaccination will be given to the people of Bihar. BJP also promised to create 19 lakh job opportunities across different sectors in the state in five years, if it is voted to power. In its election manifesto known as ‘Sankalp Patr’ (Resolve Document), it promised that 3 lakh new teachers would be recruited and Bihar will be developed as the next generation IT hub which would create five lakh jobs. One lakh new jobs would be given in the health sector.

It went on to promise, the setting up 1,000 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) to develop a supply chain for farm produce which alone will create 10 lakh new jobs. It’s slogan was, ‘BJP hai to bharosa hai’ (Where BJP is, there is hope). Further, it announced that Nitish Kumar will be the Chief Minister of Bihar and under his rule, Bihar will become a progressive and developed state of India.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav, both in the manifesto and electioneering  made unemployment in Bihar a major poll issue, and promised 10 lakh jobs and better health infrastructure. Presenting the financial details in this matter, he claimed that Bihar government can easily provide 4 lakh jobs to the unemployed who are forced to migrate. The state has a budget of  2.13 lakh crore rupees of which only 60 per cent has been spent. He also claimed that over 80,000 crore rupees is unspent. Going further he stated that this is not a manifesto but a promise for change. In his election meetings he repeatedly pointed over issues of unemployment, pandemic mismanagement and indifference towards migrants.

While the political parties were busy making tall promises which they know they are not responsible to fulfil, the people of Bihar, especially the unemployed youth, migrant labourers, women, members of civil society organisations and NGOs were busy preparing to highlight the issues of the people. Over 200 members of NGOs, civil society and secular organisations met together in Patna and came up with Peoples’ Manifesto which had the following aspects: reform in agriculture, appropriate wages, drinking water, affordable health care, women’s rights, rights of vendors, child rights, Panchayati raj and rural development, attending to flood and draught, rights of Dalits, rights of minorities, migration and rights of labourers, total justice, etc.

Betrayal of People of Bihar

It is an accepted fact that the crisis crated by corona virus pandemic was an unknown, unfamiliar reality. Any simplistic or ill-thought out response will result in greater problems. Yet, it is expected of a government to respond to this crisis too in a positive and proactive manner. It is extremely unfortunate that rulers of India not only did not plan the response for Covid-19 adequately but also did not plan properly the lockdown. It hardly showed the political will to work out a comprehensive plan called lockdown; it hardly showed any openness to consult those who could contribute to protect, save over 130 crore population; it hardly showed any willingness to get suggestions from experts in various field; it did not have any sincerity to implement its own plans.

Leaving out the main line media which has become for the last 6 years, stooge of the ruling elite, common person and concerned citizens of India, have stated with pain and anger that the Government of India was and is engaged in knee-jerk responses; in obscure and obscurantist practices; extremely unplanned and half planned moves; made tall promises but did not put in place systems and mechanisms to realise these promises; cynically poked at those countries where the number of positive cases of the virus was increasing; boasted of imposing lockdown without putting in place other necessary things; irrespective of being a federal government did not take into account the views and efforts of the state governments; now not knowing what to do and putting the responsibility on the state government; failing to take note of the good work of many state governments, civil society organisations; etc.

Among all the segments of the Indian population which were affected one that was totally and fundamentally deceived and devastated by both the omission and commission of the government of India is the migrant labourers. From 25th March, 2020, the horrible plight of the migrant labourers has hit both the national and international media. It is this section of the population who come from the lower caste and class but are the backbone of Indian economy. But it is they who did not figure at all in the announcements and  pronouncements, programs and plans, packages and reliefs of the government.

According to the State of Working India Report an analysis of labour market trends by the Centre for Sustainable Employment at Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, most Indian households work in the unorganised sector and face a low earnings problem. The report goes on to state that in 2015, of a workforce of 467 million, 47% were self-employed and 36.5% were casual wage workers, while only 17% were regular wage workers. Among these workers, in 2015, 92% women and 82% men earned less than Rs 10,000 a month. This is nearly half the monthly salary recommended by the Seventh Central Pay Commission of Rs 18,000 as a living wage, according to the report. But Mukesh Ambani gets his place reserved in the world’s richest businessmen.

According to a report of the International Labour Organisation about 41% of casual labourers earned less than even the central government’s indicative national minimum wages of Rs. 176/- per day. It is from this deplorable situation, the labourers migrate from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Assam and Odisha in a big to mega cities and rural areas in other parts of India where they get paid nothing less than Rs. 500/- Thus this migrant labourers not only earn a decent wage but are also contributing in the growth of the economy of the country. But they were forced to walk back to their place of origin under the pretext of lockdown. Even millions of them die, the ruling elite of this country will not even shed crocodile tears since it does not matter to them.

Irrespective of the fact that the migrant labourers were on the road walking hundreds and thousands of kilo meters from the month of March itself, there was no plan to reach them home or provide relief or make travel arrangements. Irrespective of many dying on the way, being killed, run over by train, etc. not even scant attention was paid to address their issues. It is becoming more and more clear that it is not due to lack of political will that the ruling elite failed to take care of them in the lockdown but it appears that they wanted them to be wiped out from the face of the earth.

The entire nation and the world were aghast by this picture of a small child of a migrant parent pulling the blanket under which his dead mother was lying. This shameful and painful incident as reported took place in Muzaffarpur railway station. Once the lady died, her body was pushed out of the train compartment and left to languish there. For few days the media will report this and after that this will be forgotten. Not only one but daily hundreds of heart rendering incidents are reported in the media. Even the mainline media which had become the stooge of the divisive, destructive ruling elite, now is beginning to speak out and report deplorable incidents like this.

The Prime Minister of India addressed the nation on 12th May, 2020. But there was nothing substantial in it which could be claimed as contributive for the welfare of the citizens of the country. From the day one when the lockdown was forcefully imposed, there are agonizing and anguishing stories of the plight of the millions of returnee migrant labourers.  But the Prime Minister who boasts himself of being the ‘saviour’ of the poor and the working class, did not even utter a word about this. Forget about the migrant labourers, there was nothing for any Indian citizen. But by saying that his government is providing Rs. 20 lakh crores for various responses he tried to play politics.

The Finance Minister too made lots of announcements around this Rs. 20 lakh crores. Lots of talk but no substance. From all these the citizens of the country feel that the ruling elite has deceived, divided, defeated and decimated them and the country. A party and the government which claimed, ‘sab ke sath aur sab ka vikas’ and later ‘sab ke saath aur sab ke vishvas’ has fundamentally changed into ‘sab ke sath vishvasghat’. More and more it is dawning on the citizens of this country, especially the poor, the vulnerable and the migrant labourers who dreamt a new India in Mr. Modi and in his party, are now totally devastated and hence are feeling deceived and destroyed.

For Savita W/O Birender Manjhi a migrant labourer who from Haryana to Gopalpur in Sherghatti Block of Gaya District, Bihar the journey back home was excruciating and unimaginable. Once the lockdown was announced she and her family had no option but to return. The factory owner was neither willing to keep them and feed them nor willing to send them. However, the contractor helped to them through truck to reach their home. She along with her children and sick husband who went all the way to Haryana to eke out a living where caught between devil and deep sea. The recent diagnosis shows that her husband is HIV +ve. This news shocked her the most. Now Savita has to take care of 6 six members of the family, she, her husband, 2 children, father and mother-in-law.

Savita’s family situation is extremely grim. They have nothing at home. Whatever they earned in Haryana was spent for the transport. Now they are borrowing money, food etc., from their neighbours and are barely surviving.  Since she does not have ration card, her family does not get ration. Her father-in-law has a ration card. But he gets ration for two people only. With this ration they try to manage. Once the ration is over, they borrow from their neighbours. With her husband sick, she is the only bread winner and also has to take care of the house. Even if she wants to work, no work is available. She is determined to return to Haryana once the travel back is eased.

Mantu Manjhi a Musahar also hails from Sherghatti Block. Before the lockdown he also migrated to Pune to earn a living by selling tea in a tea shop. Once the lockdown was announced, he managed to come home through truck, changing in many places. Back in the village, there is no work. Even if he wants to work to earn a living, work is not available. They get ration once in 2 months. 5 kg rice and 5 kg wheat were the items provided for 2 months. In his family there 10 people but only four members names are in the ration card. Since his  brothers were out of the village only 4 names are in the ration card. He stated that the entire village cleared the water in the canal and caught snails and eat for a week. Now that is also not there.

He remarked that his father is very much mentally disturbed and he picks quarrels every time with his mother. Since his father makes noise, the hamlet is also angry with him and there is tension around. Mantu also confessed since he has no job and is very tensed as to how to feed the entire family without any work and income, he beats up his younger brother often. This is the situation in all the Musahar families. Since he was out of the village, he did not get job card under NREGA. Even those who have job cards are not given work. The entire village is angry with the Mukhiya, that is, the Panchayat President. But the Mukhiya does not listen to them.

 

Meena Devi a Tharu of Jamhauli village in Gaunaha Block of West Champaran District of Bihar is a Scheduled Tribe. She with her husband was working as migrant labourer in a construction site in Gorakhpur. But due to the lockdown her family was forced to return back to her village. Whatever they earned was spent and with no work in the village, they are reduced to starvation. In her village there is tension about daily wage due to rush for transplantation of paddy, the only job available for the entire villagers. Due to more workers and less work, women are paid rupees 120 these days, which is lower than the minimum wages. To add to the owes and worries of the villagers, one person was found positive with COVID-19. This has created panic in the village.

Meena Devi got 5 kgs of rice, 2 kgs of wheat and 1 kg of daal (pulse) last month from the public distribution system (PDS). He husband used to go to the forest to cut grass to make brooms to sell in the villages. But there is no demand for broom. The Forest Department has banned the people to enter the reserve forest. Hence there is no possibility of getting income from forest products. Hence, most of the men sit around play cards and drink local brew. Since there is no work in the village, she wants to go to work in the town. If this is not possible, she will remain back with her children and send her husband to the town to work and earn a living.

The Tharus, with Mongoloid features, are essentially an aboriginal tribe, who live in an area extending over 800 square miles known as Tharuhat (land of Tharus) and have a population of over three lakhs. They live in scattered settlements in the border areas of India adjoining Nepal.

They were not enlisted as Schedule Tribes during the census, 2001. They were enrolled earlier as BC. However, in 2003 they were enlisted as ST. Historical data bear testimony to this that fact that the Tharus were once land owning community here. But with the inflow of outsiders they lost most of their land and have become landless like many of the Tribals. Hence, they migrate to eke out a living.

While, thousands of migrant labourers are struggling to survive, the money that was transferred for their welfare in the PM Cares Fund is not used for them. The Hindu in its edition of 14th June, 2020 reported that a Right to Information activist’s query which sought information on State-wise allocation of the PM Cares fund was rejected on the ground that it was not a public authority, and instead directed him to visit the website for more information. It further reported that the city-based activist, S. Q. Masood, said that in May this year, as per news reports, an allocation of 2,000 crore rupees was made to procure Indian-made ventilators, and 1,000 crore rupees for welfare measures, including those for migrant workers. The activist is reported to have stated, “We have seen thousands of migrant workers in the past few weeks who were in dire straits in Telangana. The number of COVID-19 positive cases too has been increasing. It is because of this I wanted to find out State-wide allocation. That way, I could see how much has been allocated to our State of Telangana”. The activist also sought to know the status of ventilator procurement, and related information such as tenders.

Social Media and Electioneering

In the run up to the election, the media was ripe with the many pictures and captions which reminded the voters of Bihar the death and devastation they were subjected to and the total non-response of the government. Unemployed youth were in the forefront in creating clips that highlighted their plight and unravelled the total failure of the Bihar government. Young girls highlighted the total lack of development in Bihar. These surely had double impact on the voters of Bihar.

During the electioneering, the huge crowd that the opposition leader, Tejashvi Yadav drew indicated the anger and hope among the masses of Bihar. Did the anger did not convert itself into votes is a question that will be answered if any democracy is left in this country. Or, is it once again money power, muscle power, man power and above all machine power played the trick to destroy the democratic process and outcome in Bihar is something one has to wait and watch.

Fully endowed with money and mind power, both JDU and BJP have spent a greater portion on ads which have been classified by media analysts as evoking happy and hopeful emotion. This is in line with the regular game of the BJP| and its parent body RSS which try to point a happy and hopeful picture by taking to lie and falsehood. But these parties did not stop there but projected the opposition as invoking negative emotions by speaking about the negative aspects of Bihar.  Following its tradition of leader-centric politics and electioneering, the BJP projected through its media and social media propaganda. It is reported that the money spent by the BJP on social media campaign touched around 1.80 million rupees. It is also reported that JDU spent over 1 million rupees, while the Congress’s highest spending on campaign was around 8 lakh rupees.

The picture presented here highlights the sufferings imposed on the migrants of Bihar and the voters were warned that this would be their fate if they do not make the right choice.

With the help of social media, more analysis was done in Bihar in this election than in the past. As per the analysis of data on social media during the electioneering, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was growing in popularity on social media ranking. Over 28% people had high positive sentiments for Yadav. It was also a fact that around 19% people had negative sentiments about the former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son. On the other hand, Nitish Kumar’s sentiment analysis was at an all-time low of 5% and that of Sushil Kumar Modi was 3%.

Impact of Election Results

The impact of the results will have long lasting effect on Bihar, people of Bihar, development of Bihar and in extension it will have its impact on the national politics. Since BJP is the leading partner within NDA, it is possible that BJP will form the government keeping JDU as junior partner. If this happens, it would be a disaster for Bihar, the migrants and the minorities. But one should also add that it would be a tsunami for the growth and development of Bihar. It is a death call for the migrants since it is the BJP at the national level which made people to clap hands and bang utensils and failed to plan and implement lockdowns and unlock in a scientific and affordable manner. This utter inhuman step to impose lockdown without giving time and providing facilities for the distress migrants of Bihar led to the death and devastation of millions of the migrants. Those who escaped death when they reached Bihar were left to fend for themselves without any provisions made by the Nitish government. Those who remained back are facing starvation and death along with their families. But some who read the signs of the time have already returned back to where they were working so as to escape starvation and death.

Minority Christian (50,000) and Muslim communities (16.9%) are feeling threatened about the results. Bihar had witnessed communal riots in the past. But from the time Lalu Prasad Yadav took over the reins of Bihar, there were very little of them. This continued in Nitish Kumar’s regime too. But with BJP as the major player, the minority communities are apprehensive. The age old tradition of socialist and harmonious relationship between people of various religions, faiths, cultures and backgrounds surely will be disturbed for limited political ends. In the name of India is for Indians, it would be India is for Hindus will dominate.

This social fact has been clearly established in the number of tickets given to the Muslim candidates by various parties and the number of these candidates who managed to win. The following are the number of candidates who won from Muslim community from different parties: AIMEIM – 5, Congress – 4, RJD – 8, CPIML – 1, BSP – 1  and the total is 19. This is only 7.8% while the Muslim population in Bihar as stated above is 16.9%. Even a stalwart Abdul Bari Siddiqi who was considered to be next to Lalu Prasad Yadav lost to BJP in Keoti in Darbhanga district. This goes to state that the fascist forces RSS and BJP have succeeded in driving a wedge among the various communities of India once for all.

Already Bihar was deeply affected by backwardness, lack of educational and economic growth. But now like Uttar Pradesh arrogance, authoritarianism, different rules for different communities, undemocratic ways of behaviours and procedures, etc. will become the rule of the day. One time, during 1974 struggle by Jayaprakash Narayanan in India it was known that ‘Bihar Shows the Way’ but now it will be known, ‘Bihar leads in undemocratic, authoritarian and autocratic and divisive politics and governance’.

Prakash Louis is Founder of Indian Christians for Democracy


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