Ups & downs of politics in Bihar
Er Prabhat Kishore
After the independence of India, Bihar has witnessed ups and downs of various political parties as well as leaders. In the pre-Mandal era, i.e. before1990, power politics was dominated by the Congress Party as a political institution and the upper castes in terms of leadership. In the post-Mandal era, the scenario completelyreversed 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 classes. Before the 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 elections till his demise on 31st January 1961;although, dissident activities have been unsuccessfully launched by his deputy and Finance Minister Anugrah Narayan Sinha, a Rajput leader. After the demise of Sri Babu, Deep Narayan Singh, a Rajput, served as acting Chief Minister since 1st February 1961 to 18th February 1961.
Blessed with the central leadership, Binoda Nand Jha, a Brahmin, was elected as leader of Congress Legislature Party and sworn in as the Chief Minister on February 18, 1961. In 1962, third general election was fought under the leadership of Pandit Jha and he continued as Chief Minister even 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 the ‘Kamraj Yojana’ of the Congress Party. Following his resignation, for the first time in the history of Congress, election for the leader of the legislature party 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 a long span of 20-years after independence, about 85 per cent backward & dalit population were bereft of not only in the government services & institutions, but in every walk of life.
Intensive campaign for their awakening as well as reservation in government jobs & institutions was being carried out by Congress leader Duo 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 the slogan “Sansopa Ne Bandhi Ganth, Pichhra Pawe Sau Mein Santh”. Under such circumstances, the third general election of 1967 proved to be a “political waterloo”.
The Congress fell short of the majority figure and lost power in several states including Bihar. The 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. It was very tedious for MahamayaBabu to keep these opposite ideology parties united for long time andultimately, the government fell by 13 votes in the Vidhan Sabha on 25th January 1968. Bindeshwari Prasad Mandal (Chairman of Mandal Commission) was an SSP MP and joined in Mahamaya Ministry, but was not elected as MLA or MLC. to become a member of Vidhan Mandal his 6-month deadline was only 10 days left. On the initiative of Congress, B P Mandal, a Yadav, formed ‘Shoshit Samaj Dal’ to become the Chief Minister. So, first Satish Pd. Singh, a Koiri, of his Party was sworn in as the Chief Minister, whose tenure was for just 5 days (28th Jan 1968 to 1st Feb 1968) and Sri Mandal was nominated to the through a Governor Quota.
Mandal formed the government with the support of the Congress. The Congress was not convenient supporting a backward Chief Minister.
To topple Mandal Government, a 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 Chief Minister also had to resign only after 95 days (22nd March 1968 to 29th June 1968) and for the first time in the history of Bihar, President Rule came into force on 29th June 1968.
In the Mid-Term Election of 1969, the Congress got only 118 seats and remained far from the magic figure of 160. On 26th Feb. 1969, the 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 government. Due to large-scale defection of ministers & legislatures, the Harihar Singh government was defeated in the Vidhan Sabha by securing only 143 votes against 164.
Bhola Paswan Shastri took charge for the second time through double-cross of legislatures from different parties. The Jansangh wanted to keep the Congress out of the government. Congress also did not want leaders of Jansangh, PSP & SSP to be inducted in the government.
The Congress brought a no-confidence motion in the Vidhan Sabha which was passed with the support of Jansangh, and within 9 days Shastri Govt. (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 the Congress was sworn in as Chief Minister. But again the upper caste lobby of the Congress could not accept Roy for long time.
In the opposition, there was internal fight in the SSP between the upper and backward caste lobbies for leadership in which Karpoori Thakur, a Nai, succeeded. Daroga Roy govt. (16th Feb 1970 to 22nd Dec 1970) fell down and Karpoori Thakur became Chief Minister on 22nd Dec. 1970 with the support of the Jansangh.
He too became a victim of defections and had to resign on 2nd June 1971. A forum of like-minded legislatures named ‘Pragatishi Vidhayak Dal’ was formed and its leader Bhola Paswan Shastri took over as Chief Minister for the third time. He again fell to kept legislature united and resigned on 27th December 1972; followed by President Rule on 9th Jan. 1972.
In a span of just 5 years since 1967 to 1972, the People of Bihar have faced 9 chief ministers. In a bid to eradicate the unstable political scenario, Congress was voted to power in 1972 election with 167 seats. The Congress continued its traditional game and in place of Ram Lakhan Yadav, the leader of the legislature party in the dissolved assembly, Kedar Pandey, a Brahmin, was made the Chief Minister (19.3.1972 to 02.07.1973).
Pandey Government step down within one year and for the first time in the history of Bihar a Muslim leader Abdul Gafoor (02.07.1973 to 11.04.1975) was made the Chief Minister to counter the heavyweights Mishra brothers. Gafoor had to resign following the JP movement.
Taking emotional sympathy of the assassination of the then railway minister Lalit Narayan Mishra in a Bomb exploitation in Samastipur in 1974, his younger brother Dr. Jagannath Mishra, a Brahmin, become the Chief Minister (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’s Rule.
In general election of June 1977, the Janata Party came to power with a landslide victory in the state. Despite strong opposition from State Janata Party President Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Karpoori Thakur was elected the leader of the legislature party and took oathastheChief Minister (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 letters to all unemployed engineers in the state.
Under the patronage of Satyendra Narayan Sinha and even the blessings of JP, there were aggressive protests against the reservation. Ultimately, Karpoori Thakur had to resign and Ram Sundar Das, a Chamar, took charge of the Chief Minister (21.04.1979 to 17.02.1980).
The key of power was with S.N. Sinha and Dasji had no control overthe administration. President’s Rule was imposed on 17th February 1980, and the Vidhan Sabha was dissolved.
Congress return to power in the Mid-term election in 1980 and Dr. Jagannath Mishra (08.06.1980 to 14.08.1983), became the Chief Minister for the second time. Mishra’s worst functioning angered the Congress high command and Chandrashekhar Singh, a Rajput (14.08.1983 to 12.03.1985) was made the Chief Minister. The general election in 1985 was fought under Singh’s leadership and the Congress returned to power, but surprisingly he was stepped down and State Congress President Bindeshwari Dube, a Brahmin, was blessed as the Chief Minister (12.03.1985 to 13.02.1988) by the Party high-command. Dubeji has full support of the MLAs, but Congress High Command pressurized him to resign and a new face BhagawatJha Azad, a Brahmin, (14.02.1988 to 10.03.1989), was made the Chief Minister.
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 the Vidhan Sabha election, the Rajput leader Satyendra Narayan Sinha (11.03.1989 to 06.12.1989) was made the Chief Minister, 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,the Congress loose in Lok Sabha election and Satyendra Sinha was stepped down. Dr. Jagannath Mishra (06.12.1989 to 10.13.1990), who had the image of a corrupt politician in public, was again made the Chief Minister. Dr. Mishra hampered all those popular ongoing works, which were of no personal benefit.
Corruption has reached the highest level ever since independence. In the 1990 general election of Vidhan Sabha, Janata Dal came to power and the Congress was out forever.
In 1990, there was direct fight for leadership in Janata Dal between Devi Lal supported Laloo Prasad and V.P. Singh supported Ram Sunder Das. Das had an edge over Laloo, but at the last moment Chadrashekhar supported Raghunath Jha jumped into fray spurring some upper caste MLAs, who were 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 the Chief Minister (10.03.1990 to 25.07.1997).
Due to technical reason President’s Rule was in 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 the post of Chief Minister. Rabri Devi was elected the leader of the legislature party and in its history, Bihar saw its first women Chief Minister (27.7.1997 to 2.3.2002). Although, for short time President’s Rule have been imposed since 11.02.1999 to 9.3.1999.
In the 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 the government, but he could not succeed to gather majority mark and resigned within 7 days. Rabri Devi was once again sworn in as the Chief Minister with the support of the Congress, whose all legislatures got ministerial berth and its leader Sadanand Singh was chaired as Vidhan Sabha speaker.
In the general election held in February 2005, no party got a clear majority. Ram Party, LJP was in position of king maker, but he takes “Na Lenge, Na Denge” policy on the question to support any of the two alliances. Rabri Devi had to resign and President’s Rule was imposed on 7th March 2005. At last, Ram Vilas’s Party broke up and a large chunk of its legislatures joined Nitish’s Party JD(U). In the November 2005 election, JD(U)-BJP alliance got an absolute majority and Nitish Kumar (24.11.2005 to 22.05.2014 and 22.02.2015 uptill now) was elected leader of the alliance and sworn in as the Chief Minister. In the November 2010 election, JDU-BJP alliance again got landslide majority winning 203 of the total 243 seats and Nitish Kumar continued.
In 2013, during the Goa session of the BJP working committee meeting, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was made the chairman of the Party Campaign committee, with an indication that he would lead the Party (and also NDA !) after the Lok Sabha election.
This angered Nitish Kumar and he broke his ties with the BJP and all the ally ministers were dropped. Nitish continue as Chief Minister with 118 JDU and 4 independent MLAs; but in the 2014 Lok Sabha general election, his party lost badly and got just two seats. Taking moral responsibility, he resigned on 17th May 2014 and his surprising choice Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Mushar, was elected as the leader. Manjhi was sworn in as Chief Minister on 22th May 2014. Manjhi had no control overthe administration; progress works, initiated by Nitish, slowed down and image of the Party began to deteriorate.
There was a strong demand from the aggrieved legislatures for Nitish to lead the government. Seeing himself in the midstream Manjhi revolted; but with no support in the party, he had to resign on 20 February 2015.
On 22 February 2015, Nitish Kumar was sworn in as Chief Minister. He had to seek the support of Laloo’s Party RJD, having 22 MLAs, as a dozen MLAs of his party stood behind Manjhi.
In the November 2015 general election, faced with the four parties NDA, Nitish Kumar joined hands with his close friend-turned-arch rival Laloo Prasad and the Congress to form Maha-Gathbandhan (MG). In the amidst of a tight battle between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar, the Maha-Gathbandhan secured 178 seats, while the NDA was shrinked at just 58 seats. As leader of MG, Nitish was sworn in as Chief Minister, which was his 5th term in the office.
In 2017, when name of the Deputy Chief Minister Tejaswi Yadav, son of Laloo Prasad, figured in corruption case, Nitish advised him to come out of the government until he got a clean cheat; but Tejaswi did not do so and Laloo Prasad started criticizing the Chief Minister. To save the image of the government, Nitish Kumar and his Party came out from MGon 26 July 2017. High voltage drama was witnessed throughout the night and BJP supported Nitish, who was sworn in as Chief Minister for the 6th time 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 the 2020 Vidhan Sabha election, there was a close fight between the two alliances NDA (JDU-BJP-HAM-VIP) and MG (RJD-Congress-Communist groups), in which national parties BJP & Congress has grabbed more seats in comparison to the previous elections. In reality, the fight was not “NDA vs MG”, but was “Nitish vs All”. Nitish Kumar was the solo target of not only opposition and Liquor Mafia, but BJP’s core voters and TRP thirsty electronic media channels. The LJP parted wayswith the NDA with a solo motto of”Finish Nitish” and fought on seats of JDU only with BJP background candidates. In JDU’s constituencies the BJP’s upper caste voters aggressively rallied behind the LJP and on some seats MG too to weaken Nitish. Although NDA crossed majority marks of 122, with the BJP securing 74as against earlier 59 seats; but the JDU was reduced from 71 to only 43 seats due to betrayal of its own ally’s core voters. As per the pre-poll strategy, Nitish Kumar, beingthe leader of the NDA became the 34th Chief Minister of Bihar; whose 7th times oath for the highest post is a record in Bihar.
With above deceit, day to day criticism and an effort to break-up the allied party by BJP, JDU ultimately broke its alliance with NDA and formed the government with Mahagathbandhan on 10th August 2022 and took oath 8th times for the Chief Minister. Nitish Kumar had set record of serving the Bihar state as its Chief Minister for the longest period of over 15successful years.
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 the upsurge of regional parties dominated by backward classes. People experiment 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.
(The author is a technocrat