1971 Lok Sabha election : Serious drubbing for communalists, reactionaries in Bihar

                 Indira Gandhi
                Credit – Time magazine, National Portrait Gallery,                          Smithsonian Institution


Secular Democracy, June 1971

Though in theory there were two main fronts in the mid-term election for the fifth Lok Sabha from Bihar — the Congress-led combination of the CPI, the PSP and the Horo faction of the Jharkhand Party; and the constituents of the ruling Samyukta Vidhayak Dal comprising the SSP, the Syndicate, the Jan Sangh, the Swatantra, the Janta Party and the Bagun Sumbrai faction of the Jharkhand party — but in practice no front really existed.

Both these rival fronts had failed to work out adjustments to the extent they anticipated and avoid contest among the front parties.

At the time of dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the party position in respect of Bihar was: Congress 25, Syndicate 8, SSP 5, CPI 5, Janta Party 2, Jharkhand 2, PSP 1, Jan Sangh 1, BKD 1, Proutist Bloc 1, Shoshit Dal 1, Independent 1.

But the 1971 mid-term poll results marked a great change in the Lok Sabha contingents from Bihar.

Though it was certain that the Congress would take a larger share of the State’s seats than any other political party and might improve its position by a few more seats, nobody expected it to get more than 30 seats where- as it has got 39 of the 47 it contested-securing 33.75 per cent of the total votes polled.

The party, which had 25 seats in the dissolved house, retained 23 and bagged 16 new seats in the process increasing its strength by 14 seats.

All the top Congress leaders Shri Jagjivan Ram, Shri Binodanand Jha, Shri Baliram Bhagat, Shri Bhagwat Jha Azad, Shri Siddeshwar Prasad, Shri A.P. Sharma and Shri Nawal Kishore Singh defeated their rivals by big margins.

In Bihar there is practically no Congress organisation in most districts and certainly not at the State level. It was the popularity of the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, and the organisational skill of State leader R.L.S. Yadav that has achieved the miracle.

Actually a vote cast for the cow and calf symbol was a vote for Indira. The ‘remove poverty. slogan proved more attractive than the ‘remove Indira’ slogan voiced by the grand Alliance.


Party Contested Won Votes polled
Congress (R) 47 39 33.75 %
Jana Sangh 28 2 12.6 %
Congress (O) 24 3 11.57 %
CPI 17 5 9.98 %
SSP 28 2 9.52 %
PSP 12 0 0.96 %
Janata 4 0 0.96 %
BKD 13 0 0.95 %
Jharkhand 13 1 0.81
CPM 4 0 0.81 %
Other 231 1 18.58

According to poll observers, Mrs Gandhi was able to poll most of the backward caste, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe and Muslim votes besides a large chunk of women votes. Eleven of the fourteen backward castes MPs from Bihar belong to the Congress.

Five out of the seven constituencies reserved for these scheduled castes were bagged by the party. It took 11 of the 13 seats falling within the tribal belt of Chotanagpur.

By and large, the Muslims preferred to vote for the Congress, this time. All the three Muslim candidates who have entered into the new Parliament from Bihar fought on Congress tickets.

Grand Alliance Routed

The election results came as a blow to the Syndicate, Jan Sangh, Swatantra, SSP and Janta Party combine, which was completely routed in Bihar. Its previous strength of 16 was decreased to a mere 7.

Many a stalwart of the different opposition parties, who were supposed to be invincible, suffered staggering defeats.

Syndicate’s leader of the opposition in the dissolved Lok Sabha, Ram Subhag Singh, the glamorous Mrs Tarakeshwari Sinha, the former Chief Minister of Bihar and President of the BPCC(O), Shri K.B. Sahay, once hailed as the coming man of Bihar, Shri Mahesh Prasad Sinha and SSP’s astute Parliamentarian Madhu Limaye — all were knocked out.

The significant point is that all of them lost respectively to little known Congress men.

The general cause of the defeat of the Grand Alliance and its electoral allies was its reactionary and conservative image.

The Syndicate, which had eight seats in the dissolved house, lost all of them but gained three new ones. This setback came in spite of the party’s contesting a large number of seats – 24. It could secure only 11.57 per cent of the total votes polled.

Besides the anti-socialist and status quo image of the Party, another factor responsible for the setback suffered by the Syndicate was the strictures of the Aiyer Commission, which had enquired into corruption charges against certain Congress leaders.

Another cause of the Syndicate defeat was its utter dependence on upper caste Bhumihar, Rajput and Kayastha votes. Majority of the Syndicate leaders belong to these three castes, who constitute only 13.22 per cent of the population. The former are land-owning castes while the later have dominated the professions and services for long.

But the caste appeal is a double-edged weapon. While it won the Syndicate feudal upper caste support it also alienated the backward and scheduled castes who are responsible for the 66.23 per cent of the State’s votes.

Price for alignment

The SSP – the second biggest party in Bihar was perhaps the worst sufferer. Its debacle in Bihar was poignant because it was the second biggest party in the state Assembly and was the leading party in the SVD Ministry .

The party, which had secured seven seats in 1967 (two of them defected later) had fielded 28 candidates but only two managed to scrape through – and these with only narrow margins. Its share of popular votes, too, came down from 17.62 per cent in 1967 to 9.52 in 1971.

There are many causes behind the decline of the Samyukta Socialists. Their alliance with the Syndicate- Sangh-Swatantra combine had precipitated revolt in the party whose sitting MLAs fought the election flouting the party mandate. It was a divided house.

As the SSP leader and police Minister of Bihar, Shri Ramanand Tiwary has said, his party had to pay a heavy price for aligning with the Jan Sangh and the Syndicate. He confessed that in the process it had lost support of the poor and the downtrodden backwards, Harijans, Muslims and women, who as the poll results showed, had gone over to the Congress.

One of the most important causes for the setback suffered by the SSP — which in fact is neither samyukta, nor socialist, nor a party  — is its aggressive ‘backwardism’, a factor that has caused alarm in the high caste circles.

Just as the upper casteism of the Syndicate has alienated the backward and lower castes, the SSP’s “backwardism” has isolated it from the upper castes. On the other hand, most of the backward and scheduled caste votes, on which the SSP was counting till now, went over to the Congress.

Jana Sangh

The performance of the Jan Sangh has belied hopes of its followers and admirers.

Though the party had been increasing its strength over the years in respect of popular votes and representation in the Assembly, it suffered a setback when its percentage of popular votes came down from 15.62 per cent in 1969 to 12.6 per cent in 1971.

However, despite the losses suffered by the party in respect of popular votes-as it often happens in parliamentary politics it was able to increase its number of seats from one (1967) to two.

The Jan Sangh lost its old seat of Banka. President of the Bihar JS Shri Kailashpati Mishra lost the prestigious seat of Patna to the CPI by a big margin.

Dr Satyanarayan (nobody knows, from where he has been provided a doctorate), a man of colourful personality, and a habitual defector, who chose the Jan Sangh in 1971 — people may remember him as the great man who claimed before the Khosla Commission that he had been in constant touch with Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose — forfeited his security deposit in Jamshedpur.

Despite its tricks to divide the Muslim votes and propagate hatred against the minority community, the Jan Sangh had a trouncing defeat in Siwan .The notorious Sanghi, Shri Rudra Pratap Sarangi was knocked out in Ranchi, again a prestige seat.

The communal appeal was, however, by and large rejected. Nothing illustrates it better than the result from the Chotanagpur tribal belt which has 13 seats in the Lok Sabha.

By rousing anti-Muslim and anti-Christian feelings, the Sangh had penetrated into the tribal areas and secured some seats in the Assembly in 1969 and one seat in Parliament in 1967.

On this occasion it fielded candidates from Chotanagpur but drew blank. The 1969 mid-term poll success of the JS in this region can be attributed to the communal massacre in Ranchi.

Congress makes mistakes

Besides its reactionary image, another reason for the setback suffered the Sangh, was the fact that no major communal riot took place in the State during 1969-71. Whatever gains the party made, was due to the faulty election machinery of the Congress.

It is a bitter truth that Shri Suresh Kumar was given a Congress ticket from Gaya not because of his own personality. He lost to the Jan Sangh. The same story was repeated in Katihar where the Congress had again fielded a faulty candidate, Shri Sita Ram Kesari — who, reportedly, is on close terms with Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain. Shri Kesari, too, lost to the Jan Sangh.

The Sangh had also some advantages due to the emergence of the Muslim League on the poll scene, which in some cases – led to a retrogressive polarization. The League had fielded nine candidates, and as expected, all of them fared badly.

An interesting feature of the election trends in Bihar was that the Congress was able to smash the 20-year old electoral supremacy of the Janta Party — an electoral ally of the Grand Alliance — in Hazaribagh district. Losing all the four seats, it contested, to the Congress; the Janta Party was completely wiped out.

Other Parties

Among the other parties, the CPI was able to maintain its strength of five in the dissolved house by securing about 9.98 per cent of the popular votes.

The A.I. Jharkhand party (Horo faction)-an electoral ally of the Congress and the Bagun Sumbrai faction of the Jharkhand party an ally of the Grand Alliance managed to maintain one seat each in the dissolved Lok Sabha.

Another feature of the midterm poll in Bihar was that in a confrontation between the Congress-led combination and the Grand Alliance, the smaller parties were routed.

The PSP, the Proutist Bloc, the BKD and the Shoshit Dal, which had one nominee each, were wiped out altogether .So also one Independent.

The smaller and regional parties like the CPM, the Socialist Party, the Forward Bloc, the Swatantra, the Hul Jharkhand, etc., made little impression on the voters. Of the 421 candidates seeking election from the 53 constituencies in Bihar, 293 forfeited their security deposits.


Secular Democracy June 1971

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