Elected again from Sandesh, deep inside Bihar’s caste war grounds, CPI(M-L) MLA and former Lok Sabha MP Rameshwar Prasad boarded a bus to reach Patna. But at his party office, there’s little to suggest that they can make or spoil government formation in the state.
Unlike other party HQs on the same road, there are no SUVs, no police guards at the CPI(M-L) office which is also the official residence of Sahar MLA and comrade Ram Naresh Ram.
What you find instead are men eating in a common kitchen, lying on rickety beds and discussing a Revolution they believe will eventually come Bihar’s way. This election, the party count has gone up from four to seven. But two of the MLAs are still in jail, locked up on murder charges.
So when Laloo Prasad Yadav announced that he also had the CPI(M-L) backing his bid to form a ‘secular’ government, it all seemed a big joke. Because all these years, the CPI(M-L) always maintained, the RJD hobnobbed with Left wing extremists like the MCC who targeted M-L workers, fellow travellers once, for ‘‘betraying the cause by joining the democratic process.’’
The CPI (M-L) was an underground organisation until 1992 when it decided to abandon the path of armed struggle.
Despite its small presence in the Assembly, it has a sizeable support base in the labour class. By distancing themselves from Laloo, the seven CPI(M-L) MLAs have upset all calculations of the Rabri government to return to power.
Here, even money won’t work. A former MP, Rameshwar Prasad says he is worth all of Rs 33,800. A matric-pass, he dropped out of school to become an M-L member in 1979. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Ara in 1989 as a front candidate for the underground organisation.
His son runs a shop, the sole source of income for the family. His own pension goes in clearing bill arrears of a telephone that happened to be also that of his party. He is used to taunts: people tell him he is an MLA of no use, even mukhiyas dream of high-end cars. ‘‘I knew what I had to do when I joined the party. It gives me pleasure that my people can hold their head high,’’ says Prasad.
N K Nanda, MLA from Paliganj, still wears a torn shirt. Once an underground activist, he has put in 30 years. When police pressure mounted, he lost his ancestral property. His present assets: Zero. ‘‘But my family stood by me. The one loss that still pains us is the library that my father built. The police burnt it down,’’ recalls Nanda.
Karakat MLA Arun Singh was born an upper caste and initiated into Marxism by his uncle who was later killed in a police encounter. He is a second time MLA.
There’s no contact with Mahboob Alam, CPI(M-L)’s MLA from Barsoi in Katihar. He has no phone. ‘‘We have sent him a message, asking him to come down to Patna,’’ says Santosh Sahar, the party office secretary.
Amarnath Yadav and Satyedeo Ram, MLAs from Siwan district, are now in jail on a murder charge. The case relates to a protest march against the kidnapping and murder of a youth. It resulted in the lynching of an accused.