Here's What Alliance With RJD-Congress Means for Left Front and Mahagathbandhan in Bihar

Suhas Munshi
·4-min read

The Left Front's alliance with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) has been described differently as an arrangement of convenience and as joining of formidable two cadre-based forces. It could be the pressure from the BJP-JD(U) combine that for the first time, the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) or CPI(ML) has allied with its one-time political adversary, the RJD, in the name of saving the Constitution.

Of the 29 constituencies in the Left's kitty, the CPI(ML) is contesting on 19 seats, the CPI on six seats and the CPM on four seats. Despite being called a 'Bhojpur-based party', the CPI(ML) has been given seats in Siwan, Arwal, Jehananad, rural Patna and Katihar.

Many political observers have called CPI(ML) the 'X-factor' in these elections. The party won six seats in 2000, seven in 2005, then five in the re-elections in October the same year; in 2010 elections it drew a blank, while in 2015, three of its candidates were declared winners.

In an interview with News18, the party's general secretary, Dipankar Bhattacharya, said the CPI(ML) has brought a sense of solidity to the alliance, which many said was shaky, especially among the Most Backward Classes (MBC) and Extremely Backward Classes (EBC) after the exit of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM-S), led by Jitan Ram Manjhi, and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) from the grand alliance.

But unlike the HAM(S) and RLSP, the CPI(ML) is more valuable to the grand alliance because being a cadre-based party, it is more likely to get its votes transferred to candidates of the RJD and Congress.

A political analyst said he feels the party has already suffered so much decline over the years that it was not confident of winning big on its own, and hence, that it chose to ally with the RJD. “The RJD is also not that big which can threaten to subsume the cadres of the CPI(ML), unlike what happened during the 15-year rule of Lalu-Rabri when a lot of ML leaders switched over to the RJD. There was also pressure on Tejashwi after the exit of Manjhi and Khushwaha. So this was a good opportunity for both," said the analyst, Nawal Kishore Chaudhary, who is a former Patna University teacher.

The Left also lends a sense of credibility and progressivism to the alliance, which in terms of perception was much required for the grand alliance or Magathbandhan, he added.

"The CPI(ML), because of its core supporters being among the most backward sections, fills in the void that was created by the walking away of Kushwaha and Manjhi. The Muslim-Yadav core vote base of the RJD will help the Left parties as much as the MBC core vote of CPI(ML) will help the Congress and RJD. The CPI(ML)'s track record of transferring votes has also been quite good. That is another it brings to the table," said social scientist and retired academic Sachindra Narayan.

Highlighting the importance of Left parties, Sidharth Mishra, in an article in News18, wrote, 'A revisit of the composition of the grand alliance and the list of the candidates fielded by it, gives credence to Tejashwi Yadav’s claim of his politics not just being about M(Muslim) and Y(Yadav) but A to Z. The Mahagathbandhan, even if inadvertently, has effectively ended up having created an image, at least on paper, of being representative of people cutting across castes and communities.'

Irrespective of outcome, the Left parties have already succeeded in getting issues of farm loan waiver and employment at the top of the political agenda, ahead of caste-based politics that used to dominate campaigns in Bihar so far.

"If you look at the 25-point charter of our alliance, you will see a distinct imprint of the Left. All issues, whether they be farm loan waiver, secure employment, equal pay for equal work, are issues which find a strong working-class resonance. This in itself is a success for us, that the issues that we have been fighting for so many years, have found prominence in the agenda. When we win and these promises are implemented, there will be a sea change in the state of people," Bhattacharya told News18 in the interview.