In winning 16 of the 29 seats they contested under the Mahagathbandhan umbrella in Bihar, the electorally marginalised Left parties have made a comeback of sorts. Though the alliance failed to dislodge the ruling NDA from power, the Communist Party of India, the CPI (Marxist) and the CPI (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation have emerged as some of the biggest gainers in the recently concluded assembly elections. While the CPI and the CPI(M) have each won two seats out of the six and four they contested, respectively, it is the CPI(ML) Liberation’s win in 12 of the 19 seats that has been the most stunning — it has a strike rate of 63 per cent, second only to the BJP’s 67 per cent. The explanations for these results have varied — some analysts and observers call it simply a result of piggybacking on the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), while others have argued that the Left is an ideologically-driven machine, whose relentless work despite electoral failures is bound to reap dividends eventually. But at a time when the Left is only in power in Kerala, and has been a diminished force even in its old bastions like West Bengal and Tripura, political analysts deep into the peculiar socio-political realities of Bihar that have made this result possible. Analysts argue that the performance of the Left in the Bihar elections has its roots in its long-lasting ideological presence in many pockets. Badri Narayan, director of the G.B. Pant Social Science Institute in Prayagraj, said the results are a very important moment for the Left, since they have turned back the clock to a time when the parties used to have around two dozen MLAs in the assembly of undivided Bihar. In fact, even until 1995, the Left parties had 25-35 MLAs in the Bihar assembly, with the CPI winning 20-25 seats in every election. Subsequently, the vote base of the CPI and the CPI(M) eroded, but CPI(ML) Liberation, which was formed in 1973 after the CPI(ML) split, continued to win five-six seats in each election. It never aligned with any mainstream party before, as it did with the RJD and the Congress this time. The reason for this vote base erosion, experts say, was the grip of ‘Mandal’ politics on the state. Dr Sanjay Paswan, BJP leader and an academic, concurred. “The Left were the central opposition in both the Centre and in Bihar until the 1960s. But with the emergence of anti-Congressism and socialism, they started becoming weak, and needed others to ally with.”. Several analysts say that to simply dismiss the victory of the Left, particularly the CPI(ML) Liberation, because it was a part of the Mahagathbandhan would amount to an incomplete understanding of the parties’ consistent presence in the state, even if they did not perform well electorally. This, analysts say, is particularly true for the CPI(ML) Liberation, which continues to raise issues of the working classes and class exploitation across Bihar. In fact, the first CPI(ML) MP in India, Rameshwar Prasad, won the election in 1989 from Bhojpur. The CPI(ML), at the time, fought elections through the Indian People’s Front, which was founded in 1982. However, despite its strong ideological base in these areas, what the Left received by being part of the Mahagathbandhan was political fuel, the professor explained. The CPI(ML) Liberation, as mentioned above, is closely associated with the Naxal movement, and is the most radical of the Left parties. It remained underground for several years before it joined mainstream politics in 1989, and never aligned itself with any mainstream party. In the 1970s, for example, an armed squad of the party called the Lal Sena violently took on landowners in the districts of Bhojpur, Gaya, Chhapra, Siwan, Patna and Aurangabad — in several of which it has won seats this time. This is why organisations like the Ranvir Sena were formed — to fight fire with fire on behalf of the landowners. It would be a fallacy to assume that the Left would have gotten as many votes without the RJD. They have a very thin voter base. But it has the capacity to benefit from an alliance, unlike the Congress’ base.