The ups and downs of power politics in Bihar
Er. Prabhat Kishore
After independence of India, Bihar has witnessed ups and downs of various political parties as well as leaders. In pre-Mandal era, i.e. before 1990, the power politics was dominated by Congress Party as political institution and upper castes in terms of leadership. In post-Mandal era, the scenario completely reversed and it is being dominated by two powerful regional socialist background parties RJD and JDU under the leadership of Laloo Prasad and Nitish Kumar respectively, both belonging to backward class.
Before first general election in 1952, Sri Krishna Singh, a Bhumihar leader, led the provincial governments in Bihar since 20th July 1937 to 31st October 1939 and 2nd April 1946 to 1952. His leadership continued after 1952 and 1957 Vidhan Sabha election till his demise on 31st January 1961.
Although, dissident activities had been initiated unsuccessfully by his deputy and Finance Minister Anugrah Narayan Sinha, a Rajput leader. After demise of Sri Babu, Deep Narayan Singh, a Rajput, served as acting CM since 1st February 1961 to 18th February 1961. Blessed with central leadership, Binoda Nand Jha, a Brahmin, was elected as leader of Congress Legislature Party and sworn in as CM on 18th February 1961.
Third general election in 1962 was fought under the leadership of Pandit Jha and he continued as CM after the election. The dissident activities were intensified by Satyendra Narayan Sinha, son of Late Anugrah Narayan Sinha, and consequently B.N. Jha had to step down under “Kamraj Yojana” of Congress Party. After his resignation, first time in the history of Congress, election for legislature party leader was held between two social group candidates Birchand Patel, a Kurmi (supporeted by B.N. Jha) and Krishna Balabh Sahay, a Kayasth (supported by S.N. Sinha). Birchand Patel lost due to betrayal of some of his close associates. K.B. Sahay led the government since 2nd October 1963 to 5th March 1967.
After 20-year long span of independence, nearly 85% backward and dalit population were bereft of not only in government services and institutions, but in every walk of life. Intensive campaign for their awakening as well as reservation in government jobs and institutions was being done by Congress leader Deo Sharan Singh, a Kurmi (Ex-chairman of Bihar Vidhan Parishad) under the banner of “Backward Foundation”.
In the meantime, experiment of “backwardism” for political control was being done by the socialists like Ram Manohar Lohia and Bhola Prasad Singh with slogan “SSP ne bandhi Ganth, Pichhra pawe sau men Santh”. In such circumstances, third general election in 1967 proved as “political waterloo”. Congress lagged behind majority figure and lost power in several states including Bihar.
First non-Congress government was sworn in on 5th March 1967 under the leadership of Mahamaya Pd. Sinha, a Kayasth, of Jan Kranti Dal. The alliance was a mix up of conflicting ideology parties like Jansangh, Samyukt Socialist Party (SSP), Praja Socialist Party (PSP), Communist Party and Kamakhya Narayan Sinha, ex-King of Ramgarh . For Mahamaya Babu it was very tedious to keep these opposite ideology parties united for long time and ultimately, on 25th January 1968, the government fall in Vidhan Sabha by 13 votes.
Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal (the chairman of Mandal Commission) was an SSP MP and joined in Mahamaya Pd. Ministry, but was not elected as MLA or MLC. His time limit of 6 months to become a member of Vidhan Mandal was just 10 days left. On Congress initiative, B.P. Mandal, a Yadav, formed “Shoshit Samaj Dal” to become CM. So, first Satish Pd. Singh, a Koiri, of his Party was sworn in as CM, whose tenure was for just 5 days (28th Jan 1968 to 1st Feb 1968) and Sri Mandal was nominated for Vidhan Parishad through Governor Quota. Mandal formed the government with the support of Congress. Congress was not convenient in supporting a backward Chief Minister. To topple Mandal Govt. break up in Congress took place and “Loktantrik Congress” under the leadership of Bhola Paswan Shastri, a Dusadh, was formed. Mandal remain in power for just 47 days (1st Jan 1968 to 22nd March 1968). Government of Samyukt Morcha under the leadership of Shastri took charge, but this Schedule Caste CM also had to resign only after 95 days (22nd March 1968 to 29th June 1968) and in the history of Bihar first time President Rule came into force on 29th June 1968.
In the Mid Term Election of 1969, Congress got only 118 seats and remained far away from magic figure of 160. On 26th Feb. 1969 government was formed under the leadership of Sardar Harihar Singh, a Rajput (26th Feb 1969 to 22nd June 1969) of United Forum, but he was also unable to provide stable govt. Due to mass scale defection of ministers & legislatures, Harihar Singh government lost in Vidhan Sabha by securing only 143 votes as against 164.
Bhola Paswan Shastri took charge second time through double-cross of various parties’ legislatures. Jansangh wanted to keep Congress out of government. Congress also not wanted to induct leader of Jansangh, PSP & SSP in the government. Congress brought non-confidence motion in the Vidhan Sabha which was passed with the support of Jansangh, and within 9 days Shastri government (22nd June 1969 to 4th July 1969) collapsed. On 6th July 1969 President Rule was imposed, which was revoked on 16th Feb. 1970, when Daroga Prasad Roy, a Yadav, of Congress was sworn in as CM. But again upper caste lobby of Congress could not accept Mr. Roy for long time. In opposition party, there was internal fight in SSP between upper and backward caste lobby for leadership in which Karpoori Thakur, a Nai, succeeded. Daroga Roy govt. (16nd Feb. 1970 to 22nd Dec. 1970) fell down and Karpoori Thakur became CM on 22nd Dec. 1970 with the support of Jansangh. He also became sufferer of defection and had to resign on 2nd June 1971.
A forum of likeminded legislatures named “Pragatishil Vidhayak Dal” was formed and its leader Bhola Paswan Shastri took charge of CM third time. He again fell to kept legislature united and resigned on 27th Dec 1972; followed by President Rule on 9th Jan. 1972.
In a span of just 5 years since 1967 to 1972, People of Bihar have faced 9 chief ministers. To eradicate the unstable political scenario, Congress was voted to power in 1972 election securing 167 seats. Congress continued its traditional game and in place of Ram Lakhan Yadav, the legislature party leader in dissolved assembly, Kedar Pandey, a Brahmin, was made CM (19.3.1972 to 02.07.1973).
Pandey Government step down within one year and first time in the history of Bihar a Muslim leader Abdul Gafoor (02.07.1973 to 11.04.1975) was made CM to counter heavyweights Mishra brothers.Gafoor had to resign following JP movement. Taking emotional sympathy of murder of Lalit Narayan Mishra, the then railway minister, in a Bomb explotion in Samastipur in 1974, his younger brother Dr. Jagannath Mishra, a Brahmin, become CM (11.04.1975 to 30.04.1977) and during his tenure emergency was imposed on 25th June 1974. On 30 April 1977, Vidhan Sabha was dissolved and Bihar came under President Rule.
In June 1977 general election, Janata Party came into power in the state with landslide victory. Karpoori Thakur was elected leader of legislature party despite strong opposition of Satyendra Narayan Sinha, State Janata Party President and was sworn in as CM (24.06.1977 to 21.04.1979). Thakur gained name & fame, when he implemented long-awaited Backward Class reservation in State Government services as well as institutions and distribute appointment letter to all unemployed engineers of the state.
Aggressive protest was held against the reservation under the patronship of Satyendra Narayan Sinha and blessing of even JP. Ultimately, Karpoori Thakur had to resign and Ram Sundar Das, a Chamar, took charge of CM (21.04.1979 to 17.02.1980). Thekey of power was with S.N. Sinha and Dasji had no control on administration. On 17th February 1980, President Rule was imposed and Vidhan Sabha dissolved.
Congress return back in power in Mid-term election in 1980 and Dr. Jagannath Mishra (08.06.1980 to 14.08.1983), was reined second time as CM. The worst functioning of Mishra angered Congress high command and Chandrashekhar Singh, a Rajput (14.08.1983 to 12.03.1985) was made CM. General Election in 1985 was fought under the leadership of Singh and Congress returned back in power, but surprisingly he was stepped down and State Congress President Bindeshwari Dube, a Brahmin, was blessed as CM (12.03.1985 to 13.02.1988) by Party high-command. Dubeji has full support of MLAs, but Congress High Command pressurized him to resign and a new face Bhagawat Jha Azad, a Brahmin, (14.02.1988 to 10.03.1989), was made CM. In the meantime, V.P. Singh started his activities against Bofors Scam & corruption and lateron Socialists also joined him. To counter V.P. Singh in the coming Vidhan Sabha election, the Rajput leader Satyendra Narayan Sinha (11.03.1989 to 06.12.1989) was made CM, his long awaited dream. He tried his best to implement the popular welfare schemes and to sort out unemployment issues. But in V.P. Singh wave Congress loose in Lok Sabha election and Satyendra Sinha was stepped down. Dr. Jagannath Mishra (06.12.1989 to 10.13.1990), whose image in the public was of a corrupt politician, was made CM again. Dr. Mishra hampered all those popular ongoing works, which were of no personal benefit. Corruption rises to highest level ever since independence. In 1990 general election of Vidhan Sabha, Janata Dal came to power and Congress ousted forever.
In 1990, there was direct fight for leadership in Janata Dal between Devilal supported Laloo Prasad and V.P. Singh supported Ram Sunder Das. Das has upper edge on Laloo, but at last moment Chadrashekhar supported Raghunath Jha jumped into fray breaking some upper caste MLAs, who was loyal to Dasji.
Nitish Kumar and Sharad Yadav were instrumental in favour of Laloo Prasad, a Yadav, who was elected leader and sworn in as CM (10.03.1990 to 25.07.1997). Due to technical reason Predident Rule came into force since 28.03.1995 to 4.5.1995. For his involvement in Fodder Scam, Laloo Prasad had no way other than to step down. Laloo surprised everyone, when he put forward his house-wife Rabri Devi for CM post. Rabri Devi was elected leader of legislature party and in its history, Bihar saw its first women CM (27.7.1997 to 2.3.2002). Although, for short time President Rule have been imposed since 11.02.1999 to 9.3.1999.
In general election of 2000, no single party secured majority. Governor Vinod Narayan Pandey invited Nitish Kumar, a Kurmi (3.3.2000 to 10.3.2000) to form government, but he could not succeed to gather majority mark and resigned within 7 days. Rabri Devi was again sworn in as CM with the support of Congress, whose all legislatures got ministerial berth and its leader Sadanand Singh was chaired as Vidhan Sabha speaker.
No party got clear majority in general election held in February 2005. Ram Vilas Paswan’s Party, LJP was in position of king maker, but he takes “Na lenge, Na denge” policy on question of support to any of the two alliances. Rabri Devi had to resign and President Rule was imposed on 7th March 2005. At last, Ram Vilas’s Party breaked up and a large chunk of its legislatures joined Nitish’s Party JD(U).
In November 2005 election, JD(U)-BJP alliancegot full majority and Nitish Kumar (24.11.2005 to 22.05.2014 and 22.02.2015 uptill now) was elected leader of alliance and sworn in as CM. In November 2010 election, JDU-BJP alliance again got landslide majority winning 203 of total 243 seats and Nitish Kumar continue. In 2013, during Goa session of BJP working committee meeting, Narendra Modi, then CM of Gujarat, was made chairman of Party Campaign committee, with indication that he will lead the Party after Lok Sabha election. This irritated Nitish Kumar and he break up his relationship with BJP and all ally ministers were dropped. Nitish continue as CM with 118 JDU and 4 independent MLAs, but in Lok Sabha general election of 2014, his Party was badly lost and got just two seats.
Taking moral responsibility, he resigned on 17th May 2014 and his surprise choice Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Mushar, was elected as leader. Manjhi was sworn in as CM on 22th May 2014. Manjhi had no control on administration; progress works, initiated by Nitish, slowed down and Party image began deteriorating. Strong demand came from agrived legislatures to Nitish to lead the government.
Seeing himself in midstream Manjhi revolted, but having no support in the party, had to resign on 20 February 2015. On 22 February 2015, Nitish Kumar was sworn in as CM. He has to take support of Laloo’s Party RJD, having 22 MLAs, as a dozen MLAs of his party stood behind Manjhi. In November 2015 general election, to cope up with four parties NDA, Nitish Kumar joined hand with his close friend-turned-arch rival Laloo Prasad and Congress to form Maha-Gathbandhan (MG).
Amidst tough war between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, Maha-Gathbandhan secured 178 seats, whereas NDA shrinked at just 58 seats. As leader of MG, Nitish was sworn in as CM, which was his 5th time tenure in the office. In 2017, when name of Deputy CM Tejaswi Yadav, son of Laloo Prasad, figured in corruption case, Nitish advised him to come out of government until he got clean cheat, but Tejaswi not do so and Laloo Prasad started criticizing the CM. To save the government image, Nitish Kumar and his Party came out from MG on 26 July 2017. High voltage drama was observed whole night and BJP supported Nitish, who was sworn in 6th time as CM on 27th July 2017 along with BJP and LJP. In the Ministry, Pashupati Kumar Paras, younger brother of Ram Vilas Paswan, was also inducted.
In 2020 Vidhan Sabha election, there have been close fight between two allianes NDA (JDU-BJP-HAM-VIP) and MG (RJD-Congress-Communist groups), in which national parties BJP & Congress has grabbed more seats in comparison to previous elections. In reality, the fight was not “NDA vs MG”, but was “Nitish vs All”.
Nitish Kumar have been solo target of not only opposition and Liquor Mafia, but BJP’s core voters and TRP thirsty electronic media channels. LJP parted away from NDA with solo motto to “finish Nitish” and fought on seats of JDU only with BJP background canditates. In JDU’s constituencies BJP’s upper caste voters aggressively rallied behind LJP and on some seats MG too to weaken Nitish. Although NDA crossed majority marks of 122, with BJP securing 74 as against earlier 59 seats; but JDU reduced from 71 to only 43 seats due to betrayal of its own ally’s core voters. As per pre-poll strategy, being leader of NDA Nitish Kumar became 34th CM of Bihar; whose 7th times oath for the highest post is a record in Bihar.
There have been numerous ups and downs in the history of power politics in Bihar since independence. But resultant change was the downfall of national parties dominated by upper castes and upsurge of regional parties dominated by backward classes. People experimented various Parties, alliances, personalities in the laboratory of election for want of overhauling of the rusty system. Rise and fall of numerous stalwarts and political heavyweights took place. But, time and again, the dream of the People has been shattered, and journey of the democracy is still going on.
(Author is a technocrat and academician. He holds a Master in Engineering from M N Regional Engineering College, Allahabad/Prayagraj)