Sunday, May 26, 2024

Bihar: Shifting political alliances and the morality of vote

Bihar for the last decade, has witnessed constant fluctuation in political alliances. Amid this coalition politics, two parties namely RJD and JDU have always been at the center of negotiation. Rotationally, these parties have been ruling Bihar for the last three decades, backed with an alliance formula, based their ideology on the principle of social justice and the emancipation of the oppressed. 

To consolidate power, these parties traditionally lay their ground on the subtle mechanism of caste-based electoral equation. The social groups that majorly help to concretize them politically belong to dominant castes/community groups like Yadav, Kurmi, Koeri, Kushwaha, and Muslims

It can be seen in the study conducted by LOKNITI-CSDG during the last assembly election which displays that 83% Yadav and 76% Muslim voted for Mahagathbandhan (RJD+Congress+LEFT+OTHER) and 81% Kurmi and 51% Koeri voted for NDA (JDU+BJP+LJP+OTHERS). The data above signifies caste-based electoral mobilization and its role in consolidating these parties in power. 

Despite caste-based voting support for these parties, the defection of JDU led by Nitish Kumar is obvious. Within one decade, he switches 4th time from one alliance to another to maintain his status quo. So, in the context of constant defection, how do we conceptualize the meaning/ethics of vote? What would be the nature of democracy if it loses the value of the vote itself? 

Therefore, the article is not concerned with who votes for whom but stresses the value of the vote of these social groups and how their votes should be constructively utilized so that the purpose of the vote can be fulfilled. But ironically it is observed that amid the political upheaval of alliance politics or forming a majority in the assembly, the real question of the meaning/value of the vote of these social groups disappeared. 

For instance, in the last assembly election in Bihar, four MLAs from the Seemanchal region got elected on the ticket of AIMIM, but later left the party and joined RJD. This act of disloyalty and carelessness from the side of MLA against the interest and aspirations of voters ignited anger among the Muslim voters in the region. 

When asked the local Muslim leader or cadre of AIMIM who campaigned and participated in the election, said (un logo ne hamare sath dagabazi kiye, hum log chahte hai ki Bihar me ek musalmano ki party ho jo humare haq o huqooq ki baat kare) they have betrayed us, we want a Muslim party in Bihar that can talk about Muslim issues and put forward our demands.

This sense of betrayal and injustice can also be seen in the camp of Nitish Kumar supporters. When he broke the alliance with NDA and aligned with Mahagathabandhan in 2019, his grassroots local cadre and supporters showed resentment against him. When asked his local party leader, he responded that (hum chahte hai ki Nitish Kumar Modi Jee Ke Sath Rahe aur Rajya aur desh ka Sath me Vikas ho) we want Nitish Kumar to be in alliance with PM Modi so that the state and country can get progressed together. 

History and Vote

History teaches us that the rise of the French Revolution did not only crumble the existing monarchical feudalistic system of rule but also produced the distinct faculty of imagining new world orders. In this context, the idea of modern democracy and its practical implementation was not devoid of it. 

Raya Dunayevskaya states “Democracy, thus the French revolution, was not invented by philosophical theory nor by the bourgeois leadership. It was discovered by the masses in their method of action”. It was this collective method of action that turned into a coherent system of governance, gradually grounded or actualized through the practice of the voting system. However, historically the nature and the form of democracy changed i.e. feudalistic democracy, capitalist democracy and finally liberal democracy in response to shifting circumstances of the socio-political and economic system of the society in particular time and space. 

Since independence, India has also become a part of this new world order and adopted the principle of liberal democracy based on the system of electoral participation and mobilization in which elected members are supposed to represent their people and their respective constituencies. In such a framework of governance, voting becomes a fundamental social, political and moral right and duty of citizens. It represents the interests and aspirations of an individual or any collective social group.

Moreover, the vote functions as the practical instrumentality of the existing electoral system through which the notion of interests and aspirations are made into a reality. In such a framework of governance, voting is what constitutes the idea of democracy at its core. It is the right that has been enshrined in the constitution to be protected and practiced. So, any act of injustice or disloyalty from the side of any party or leader implies the erosion of the very morality of the vote. And this erosion of the morality of vote would mean the slow death of the idea of democracy.  

Saddam Hussain is a Postgraduate student of Sociology at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. 

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