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'2024 won't be a repeat of 2019 -- at least in Bihar'

Last updated on: April 18, 2024 16:20 IST
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'There was a huge difference between the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 assembly elections in Bihar.'
'Between 39/1 in 2019 to almost 50-50 in late 2020, Bihar had already moved.'

IMAGE: Rashtriya Janata Dal Founder Lalu Prasad Yadav flanked by his sons Tejashwi Yadav, right, and Tej Pratap Yadav, left, at the party's Jan Vishwas Maha Rally at the Gandhi Maidan in Patna. Photograph: ANI Photo

The office of the Communist Party of India - (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation in Patna is at the end of a narrow lane. It is close to the ancestral home of Jayaprakash Narayan who led independent India's most powerful anti-government movement against Indira Gandhi's government in the mid-1970s.

The CPI M-L has 12 MLAs in the Bihar assembly. It is contesting three Lok Sabha seats as part of the INDIA alliance which is led by the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar. The RJD is contesting 26 seats, the Congress 9 and the Left parties of which the CPI M-L is part 5.

Dipankar Bhattacharya has been general secretary of the party since 1998. An alumnus of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata, he spends nearly three weeks in a month in Bihar. The CPI M-L has MLAs in the Bihar and Jharkhand assemblies.

On the day, the party was to release its manifesto in Patna, Bhattacharya spoke to's Archana Masih and Nikhil Lakshman about the extraordinary political situation that demanded extraordinary measures and why 2024 will not be a repeat of 2019, at least in Bihar.

The first of a multi-part interview:


Did the RJD play hard ball in the seat sharing negotiations in Bihar?

I don't know, you would have to ask them. The Congress has 19 MLAs in Bihar, two of them defected which leaves them with 17 MLAs now and they got 9 Lok Sabha seats to contest.

The CPI and CPI-M have two MLAs each and got one seat each.

Our party, the CPI-ML, has 12 MLAs and no one defected -- one has been convicted and hence disqualified -- but we have got only 3 seats.

There is no parity and no political rationale in the seat sharing arrangement in Bihar.

But you had to give in to the RJD?

We had to because of the larger interest of the alliance.

In the assembly election, the Congress had been give 70 seats -- they won 19 from 70 and here is the CPI M-L which got 19 seats and won 12. The whole talk was that if the CPI M-L had got 30 seats and won 20-21, Tejaswi Yadav could have become CM! But anyway, we are now focusing on the seats we have got.

What accounts for the RJD's confidence considering the RJD did not win a single seat in the Lok Sabha election of 2019?

I cannot comment on the RJD's perception and strategy. This is one election which has the imprint of Lalu Yadav.

The 2020 assembly election was a Tejaswi Yadav election whereas this is a Lalu Yadav election. It is his plan. But Lalu had clicked in the early 1990s and this is 2024. Of course, Tejashwi too has had his say in the decision making and time will tell us whether this works or not.

We are focusing on our 3 seats and one assembly by-election.

The seat sharing negotiations is a very unstructured sort of exercise. This is not a coalition where you expect people to argue and have transparent clear cut negotiations. The RJD is the dominant party and had bilateral negotiations with different parties.

IMAGE: Tejashwi Yadav, third from left, and other RJD leaders release the Parivertan Patra -- the party manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections -- in Patna, April 13, 2024. Photograph:

Do you have a realistic assessment of how the alliance will fare?

It will not be a repeat of 2019 -- at least in Bihar. Bihar was an extreme case like Gujarat and Rajasthan. In Bihar the Congress won only one seat and that too due to demographic reasons, while the NDA won 39/40.

This time there will be a difference. There was a huge difference between the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2020 assembly elections, which was only 18 months later in the backdrop of the corona pandemic and the return of migrant workers.

Between 39/1 in 2019 to almost 50-50 in late 2020, Bihar had already moved.

IMAGE: Dipankar Bhattacharya, General Secretary, Communist Party of India - (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation, at the party office in Patna. Photograph: Nikhil Lakshman/

But that was the assembly election and this is a national election.

Still my feeling is that it will be more like 2020 than 2019. If the seat sharing had been more on a rational basis and the INDIA coalition had hit the ground earlier with some agitational thrust, it would have probably been in a better position.

There is no point lamenting about it now and we are trying to make the most of the situation as it is.

Will Tejaswi be leading the Mahagatbandhan campaign in Bihar?

RJD is the leading party and he is its emerging leader, but the coalition includes other parties and hence, it will be a collective effort.

IMAGE: Lalu Prasad Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge and party leader Rahul Gandhi, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI leader Doraiswamy Raja and others at the RJD's Jan Vishwas Maha Rally in Patna. Photograph: ANI Photo

What has been your experience of the INDIA alliance?

It is a product of the circumstances. The situation demanded it, otherwise you would never expect the Shiv Sena (UBT) and CPI M-L in a single coalition, but these are abnormal times and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.

This is an extraordinary political situation. So many times people have written obituaries for INDIA, but it has come back.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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