Bihar was an important part of India’s struggle for independence. Gandhi became the mass leader only after the Champaran Satyagraha that he launched on the repeated request of a local leader, Rajkumar Shukla, he was supported by great illumanaries like Rajendra Prasad, Anugrah Narayan Sinha and Brajkishore Prasad. After independence also, when India was falling into an autocratic rule during the regime of Indira Gandhi, the main thrust to the movement to hold elections came from Bihar under the leadership of Jaya Prakash Narayan.
This did result in two things:
1. The famous identity of Bihar (From the word Vihar meaning monasteries) representing a glorious past was lost. Its voice often used to get lost in the din of regional clamor of other states, specially the linguistic states like Uttarpradesh, Madhyapradesh etc.
2. Bihar gained an anti establishment image. The establishment oriented press often projected the state as indiscipline and anarchy.
Since the regional identity was slowly getting sidelined , its place was taken up by caste based politics, power initially being in the hands of the Brahmins, Bhumihars and Rajputs. After Independence the power was shared by the two great gandhians Dr. Sri Krishna Sinha who later became the first chief minister of Bihar and Dr. Anugrah Narayan Sinha who undecidly was next to him in the cabinet and served as the first finance minister.In late 60’s death of late Mr. Lalit Narayan Mishra (who was killed by a hand grenade attack for which central leadership is blamed most of the time) pronounced the end of indigenous work oriented mass leaders. For two decades congress ruled the state with the help of puppet chief ministries hand in glove with the central government (Mrs. Indira Gandhi) ignoring the welfare of the people of the state. It was the time when a prominent leader like Satyendra Narayan Sinha took sides with the Janata Party and deserted congress from where his political roots originated, following the ideological differences with the congress. Idealism did assert itself in the politics from time to time, viz, 1977 when a wave defeated the entrenched Congress Party and then again in 1989 when Janata Dal came to power on an anti corruption wave. In between, the socialist movement tried to break the stranglehold of the status quoits under the leadership of Mahamaya Prasad Sinha and Karpoori Thakur. Unfortunately, this could not flourish, partly due to the impractical idealism of these leaders and partly due to the machinations of the central leaders of the Congress Party who felt threatened by a large politically aware state.
Janata Dal came to power in the state in 1990 on the back of its victory at the national stage in 1989. Lalu Prasad Yadav became Chief Minister after winning the race of legislative party leadership by a slender margin against Ram Sundar Das, a former chief minister from the Janata Party and close to eminent Janata Party leaders like Chandrashekhar and S N Sinha. Later, Lalu gained popularity with the masses through a series of popular and populist measures. The principled socialists, Nitish Kumar included, gradually left him and Lalu was the uncrowned king by 1995 as both Chief Minister as well as the President of his party, Rashtriya Janata Dal. He was a charismatic leader who had people’s support and Bihar had got such a person as the chief minister after a long time. But he couldn’t bring the derailed wagon of development of the state on to the track. When corruption charges got serious, he quit the post of CM but anointed his wife as the CM and ruled through proxy. In this period, the administration deteriorated fast.
In 2005, as disaffection reached a crescendo among the masses, middle classes included, the RJD was voted out of power and Laloo Prasad lost an election to a coalition headed by his previous ally and now rival Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar has regained Bihar’s true identity which is the place from where people who changed the world come like Gautam Buddha or Asoka or the Sikh Gurus. People love him and he is desperate to put Bihar in the mainstream development path. Despite the separation of financially richer Jharkhand, Bihar has actually seen more positive growth in recent years.
Currentlly, there are two main political formations: the NDA which comprises Janata Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal led coalition which also has the Indian National Congress. There are myriad other political formations. Ram Vilas Paswan led Lok Janshakti Party is a constituent of the UPA at the centre, but does not see eye to eye with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD in Bihar. Bihar People’s Party is a small political formation in north Bihar. The Communist Party of India had a strong presence in Bihar at one time, but has got weakened now. CPM and Forward Bloc have minor presence. Ultra left parties like CPML, Party Unity etc have presence in pockets and are at war with the state.