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Democracy and Bihar Election: A Big Farce

Updated on December 19, 2017

Introduction

In 1947, the British who had ruled India for 190 years departed. They left behind a solid foundation of development, education, and communication. More important their rule ushered in a concept of nationhood.

The Congress party which had spearheaded the agitation for freedom never believed in caste. It is on record that the Congress party leader MK Gandhi strongly opposed caste. Even Gandhi opposed any reserved seats for lower castes as he believed in a monolith Hindu religion.

The Congress party at that time commissioned a galaxy of experts led by Dr. Ambedkar to draft a new constitution. The experts generally adopted the Westminster model and a parliamentary form of government like in England was ushered in. The constitution was framed in 1950.

The Congress party changed colors. The departure of Gandhi and other leaders, brought to the fore the second tier of Hindu leaders who wanted to somehow remain in power. They began to give a push to caste divisions in Hindu society. They also began a devious plan to divide the Muslims from Hindus by instituting vote banks. The results were bad as the society got polarised along religious and caste lines. Thus, something for which Gandhi had fought against was reintroduced.

The Congress party in many ways institutionalized this division on religion and caste basis, destroying the fabric of national unity. Worse almost all elections, though based on the one man one vote system were colored as voting began to take place on caste and religious lines.

Matters were further compounded by VP Singh, who was prime minister of India for a few months. This man, to perpetuate his rule further divided Hindu society by bringing in the nomenclature of" other backward" castes. VP Singh soon lost, but the damage had been done. The system of was given a constitutional cover and society divided.

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The Bihar cauldron

Bihar is state of the Union of India in the Eastern part of India. It is a populous state, but among the poorest states of India. One reason for this is rampant corruption and deep divisions in society on caste and religious lines. All the castes have their own groups and are generally united. They vote on caste lines. The political parties for their own ends continuously stoke the flames of caste. Candidates for a particular constituency are selected on the basis of caste population. Thus a lower cast candidate will be selected in a constituency where the lower casts are greater in number.

The above makes a travesty of democracy in the conventional sense as voting takes place on caste lines. Voters will vote for their own caste candidate, even if he has criminal cases pending against him. In the present election, almost 40% of all candidates who have filed their nomination papers have some criminal case filed against them.

Generally, this scenario is duplicated all over India, but in Bihar, the caste and religious lines are greatly accentuated. The present election has commenced and voting took place in 45constituencies. It will be a long drawn affair and the result will only come on 8th December. One may well ask, why a general election should take nearly a month to complete in a state which is just one of 29 states? The answer lies in the all-round atmosphere which has an undercurrent of anarchy and rioting along caste lines.

In such a scenario, the election commission has to perforce move armed police to constituency after constituency to ensure a free election and nip any caste and religious violence in the bud.

Muslims form a separate group
Muslims form a separate group
Face of a Bihar candidate
Face of a Bihar candidate

Candidate profile in Bihar election

Bihar has 245 seats in the legislature. The battle is the NDA conglomerate led by the Hindu revivalist party the BJP and the grand alliance (Mahabandgathan) consisting of 2 groups of the political party led by Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitesh Kumar. It is worth noting that Lalu Yadav is convicted and sentenced to a jail term of 3 years for corruption in what is known as the "fodder scam". He is out on bail.

The groups are contesting 100 seats each, leaving 40 for the Congress party. This party which ruled Bihar for almost 40 years has touched the nadir in popularity and can only survive by holding the coat lapels of Nitesh and Yadav. It is a non-starter in Bihar.

The BJP campaign is spearheaded by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is a clean man, but many aspiring candidates fielded by the BJP have a criminal background. In such a scenario, victory is not based on the merit of the candidate, but on which caste he belongs and the caste composition in the constituency.

Repercussions of Bihar election

The Bihar election is very important. This will be the second important election after the BJP came to power under Narendra Modi. In the first election to the Delhi state assembly, the BJP was badly trounced, winning just 3 seats in a house of 70. The Bihar election is real potboiler and an acid test of peoples perception of Modi. Though it will not affect the BJP rule in Delhi, yet it can have a cascading effect which may emerge in the next national elections. For the good of the BJP, Modi must win.

Modi is leading from the front. He is the face of the BJP. A win for him will give a boost to the BJP rule in Delhi, but a defeat will dent his image. All eyes now on 8th November, when the results will be out. Modi may just carry the day.

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