People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 17

April 25, 2004


Defeat Of Anti-Peasant And Communal BJP In Coming Elections

  Ashok Dhawale


The 19th state conference of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha began last month at Chandrapur in the Vidarbha region with an impressive 5000-strong rally on the martyrdom anniversary of the legendary freedom-fighter Chandrashekhar Azad. AIKS-led peasants came in large numbers from various districts of Vidarbha and they were joined by big sections of CITU-led unorganised workers, especially women, from Chandrapur district. The rally and the conference were attended by 301 delegates and observers from 24 districts, who represented a membership of 1,55,162 enrolled by the Kisan Sabha in 26 districts of Maharashtra last year.




The main speakers at the rally were AIKS general secretary K Varadha Rajan, AIKS joint secretary and West Bengal minister for rural development, panchayat raj and health Suryakant Mishra, AIKS joint secretary N K Shukla, peasant leader Vijay Javandhia, state AIKS office-bearers and reception commitee general secretary and CITU leader Prof Rameshchandra Dahiwade. The attractive Marathi edition of the ‘Alternative Agricultural Policy’ recently updated by the AIKS and AIAWU, and the second issue of the state AIKS quarterly journal ‘Shetkari Sangharsh’ (Peasant Struggle) were released in the rally amidst great enthusiasm by K Varadha Rajan and Suryakant Mishra respectively, while N K Shukla released a pamphlet of revolutionary peasant songs written by Sanjay Mankar, a leading Kisan Sabha activist from Nanded district. 


With the Kisan Sabha state conference taking place on the eve of the crucial Lok Sabha elections, all the speakers came down heavily on the anti-peasant, pro-imperialist, communal and corrupt policies of the BJP-led NDA regime at the centre and they called for a massive campaign to oust the Vajpayee government in the interests of the country and its workers and peasants. They charged that over 20,000 debt-ridden peasants had been forced to commit suicide, and another 20,000 had died of starvation during the last six years of the NDA regime. Such a massive tragedy was unheard of since Independence, and yet the Vajpayee government had the temerity to squander hundreds of crores of the peoples’money on shamelessly false advertisements of  ‘India Shining’ and the ‘Feel Good’ factor.    


West Bengal minister Suryakant Mishra highlighted the alternative policies and the remarkable achievements registered by the Left Front government there during its 27 years of unbroken rule. He placed the substantial record of land reforms which had benefited over 20 million people in the state. He also outlined the sucesses achieved in the sphere of panchayat raj, irrigation, credit to the peasantry and minimum wage to agricultural workers. All this had made West Bengal a leading state in the country so far as agriculture was concerned, making it one of the largest producers of rice, fish, potatoes and vegetables. The sucess in agriculture had in turn spurred industrial growth, despite the constant obstacles set up by sucessive central governments led by the Congress and BJP. While calling for the defeat of the BJP-led regime at the centre, he concluded by calling for a mass struggle for alternative policies.




The inaugural session of the conference began with the flag-hoisting by senior AIKS state vice president, freedom fighter and ex-MLA Vithalrao Naik. After revolutionary songs and floral tributes to martyrs, reception committee chairman Principal N H Khatri welcomed the delegates. AIKS state president J P Gavit, MLA, presided over the inaugural session. The stage had portraits of towering CPI(M)-CITU leader B T Ranadive and of outstanding former AIKS leaders of Maharashtra, Shamrao Parulekar, Godavari Parulekar, Krantisimha Nana Patil, Narendra Malusare and Ramchandra Ghangare.


The conference was inaugurated by AIKS joint secretary N K Shukla who outlined the nature and impact of the earlier state-sponsored policies and the current LPG policies in agriculture that were initiated by the Congress regime and were now being recklessly pursued by the BJP-led government. The cut in subsidies, slashing of public investment, reversal of land reforms, lifting of quantitative restrictions on imports, privatisation of irrigation and power, increasing mechanisation of agricultural operations and WTO conditionalities were all having a disastrous impact on the peasantry and agricultural workers of our country. The AIKS and the AIAWU were the first to oppose these policies tooth and nail, and also to formulate an Alternative Agricultural Policy way back in 1993, which has now been updated in 2003. The need of the hour, he said, was to unleash massive struggles on all burning issues of the peasantry and to propagate our alternative policies far and wide.


After the condolence resolution, the conference was greeted by CITU state vice president Uddhav Bhavalkar, AIAWU state general secretary Prakash Choudhary, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Vijay Javandhia, CPI-led AIKS leader Gopalrao Amrutkar, SFI state general secretary Maharudra Dake, DYFI leader Akash Bagul and AIDWA leader Durga Gavit. A greetings message by NRMU general secretary P R Menon was read out. The inaugural session concluded with the speech by J P Gavit.




The delegate session began with the election of the presidium comprising J P Gavit, L B Dhangar, Nanasaheb Pokle, Dada Raipure and Durga Gavit. The steering, resolutions, credentials and minutes committees were also elected. Two booklets comprising the 48-page report and 24-page resolutions, the updated ‘Alternative Agricultural Policy’, the second issue of ‘Shetkari Sangharsh’, a comprehensive questionnaire for a survey to be conducted by Kisan Sabha village committees that was painstakingly prepared by CKC member Krishna Khopkar and a statement of accounts of the last three years was the material provided to all the delegates and observers at the conference by the AIKS state council.


The conference report was placed by AIKS state general secretary Ashok Dhawale. It comprised the following nine sections:- (1) Political challenges before the peasantry; (2) New onslaughts on agriculture by the BJP-led central government; (3)  Similar attacks on agriculture by the Congress-NCP state government; (4) The current agrarian situation in Maharashtra; (5) Burning issues before the peasantry in Maharashtra today; (6) Work Report of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha from 2001 to 2004; (7) Organisational Report; (8) Major weaknesses of the State Kisan Sabha today; (9) Future Tasks.


After self-critically reviewing the long-standing theoretical and organisational weaknesses of the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra, the state leadership collectively and consciously made important changes in the form, content, direction and style of functioning of the movement and organisation during the last one decade. The seven major changes made during this period were: (1) Selecting the burning issues of the peasantry throughout Maharashtra and launching struggles on them; (2) Imparting regular political-ideological education to activists in struggle; (3) Developing the independent identity and broad nature of the Kisan Sabha; (4) Attracting young and dedicated cadres to the organisation; (5) Initiating joint struggles of peasants and agricultural workers; (6) Developing collective functioning within the Kisan Sabha at the state level; (7) As a prelude to all the above, strengthening the Kisan Sabha state centre. The above seven changes made together have had a positive impact in gradually strengthening the movement and in expanding the organisation.


Some of the major actions in the last three years have been the participation of over 1,00,000 peasants and agricultural workers in the statewide land satyagraha led by the CPI(M), AIKS and AIAWU in October 2002; the formation of the Maharashtra Rajya Shetkari-Shetmajur Sangharsh Samiti comprising six Left-led organisations in August 2001;  statewide participation of 60,000 in demonstrations making a bonfire of imported foreign agricultural goods in October 2001; statewide rallies with a participation of 30,000 on issues of drought, irrigation, electricity, cotton and sugarcane in August 2002; a 25,000-strong statewide rally of peasants and agricultural workers on the Nagpur state assembly session in December 2002 together with a Vidarbha-level jatha and a Marathwada-level convention to prepare for the same; large Kisan Sabha participation in the anti-Enron statewide agitation in Maharashtra in 2001; participation of over 40,000 peasants of the Kisan Sabha in rasta roko actions in support of the nationwide working class strike call in May 2003; and several sustained local agitations led by the Kisan Sabha on various issues in over a dozen districts.


During this period, the Kisan Sabha began its organised intervention in the co-operative movement in the state, which was a long-neglected sphere, and some of its leaders scored important victories in elections to co-operative bodies. Two state-level political camps were held during this period, and both were addressed by AIKS president S Ramachandran Pillai and other leaders. The second camp at Surgana in Nashik district in September 2003 was accompanied by a massive 30,000-strong rally. The state Kisan Sabha brought out several publications during this period and also began its quarterly journal; all these publications were well-received by the peasantry.


It was as a result of these and other steps that the Kisan Sabha registered a modest organisational advance in Maharashtra, from a membership of 69,800 in 10 districts in 1993 to a membership of 1,55,162 in 26 districts in 2003. The membership this year has already crossed last year’s figure and is likely to touch 1.75 lakhs. Kisan Sabha work has spread to nearly 2000 villages in around 100 tehsils of 28 districts. Out of these, 26 district conferences, 61 tehsil conferences and over 500 village conferences were successfully concluded before this state conference, and some of the remaining will be held later.

Over 30,000 peasants participated in rallies held in connection with 9 district conferences this year and in 10 districts, study-camps were held along with the district conferences.


Needless to say, all this is only a small beginning, and the report underlines the fact that the many weaknesses of the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra far outweigh its few strengths. The report sharply pinpoints these weaknesses and ends by setting out 11 major tasks for the years ahead.  In the six-hour discussion on the report that followed, 58 delegates took part and they enriched the report with their suggestions, criticisms and experiences. After the reply, the report was unanimously adopted.




The conference was addressed on the last day by AIKS general secretary K Varadha Rajan. Congratulating the delegates for the progress that they had made in several spheres, he said that the AIKS centre considered Maharashtra as one of the priority states which had a great potential for further growth of the movement and organisation. All over the country, in fact, the situation was ripening for a rapid advance of the Kisan Sabha.


Before 1947, during British colonial rule, the political struggle for independence and the struggles of the peasantry had converged. That is why this period saw historic struggles led by the Kisan Sabha, like Telangana, Tebhaga, Punnapra Vayalar and the Warli Adivasi revolt. Today, after many decades, a similar situation is emerging once again, as a result of the imperialist-dictated agrarian policies that are being implemented by our ruling classes. The peasantry is responding to our calls and slogans as never before in the last five decades. But we must not forget that out of the many citadels that we built in the pre-1947 period, only those remained intact which were based on the solid support of poor peasants and agricultural workers.


Today two contradictions are sharpening in rural India. The first is that between landlords and rich peasants on the one hand, and agricultural workers, poor and middle peasants and artisans on the other. The second is that between imperialism and all rural sections, including sections of the rural rich. We have to keep both these contradictions in mind while forging ahead with our struggles. Our updated Alternative Agricultural Policy has taken account of both these rural contradictions.


In such a situation, if we are to advance, certain practical guidelines must be kept in mind. First, we must concentrate on local issues and local struggles. Second, our intervention in such struggles must be timely. Third, sustained struggles on a particular issue must be undertaken so that some real gains are made and peasant confidence won. Fourth, social issues of the peasantry and agricultural workers must be given priority, and particular attention must be paid to the problems of peasant women and to enlisting them in our movement and organisation. And fifth, if the Kisan Sabha organisation is to grow, the leadership at the state and district levels must give maximum time for Kisan Sabha work. 


K Varadha Rajan concluded by saying that Maharashtra was one of the states where the Kisan Sabha was showing planned and healthy growth. That is why the AIKS centre has suggested that the next All India conference of the AIKS in 2006-07 be held in Maharashtra, particularly because an AIKS conference had not been held in the state for the last 50 years after the Dahanu conference of 1955. If this suggestion was accepted, the entire organisation could be geared not only for hosting the conference, but for rapid consolidation and expansion in the years ahead. The AIKS general secretary’s speech was received by the delegates with thunderous applause.




The conference adopted several resolutions dealing with the burning issues of the peasantry like drought, land and forest plots, irrigation, power, problems of cotton, sugarcane, milk and paddy, on rights of agricultural workers and against social atrocities. The main political resolution called for the defeat of the BJP and its allies in the coming Lok Sabha elections, since they were the main vehicle for the policies of globalisation and the cancer of communalism. Three other important resolutions called for the appropriate observance of the B T Ranadive Centenary Year, a more organised intervention in the co-operative movement in the state and a serious survey of villages to be conducted by the Kisan Sabha village committees on the basis of  a questionnaire, so as to identify the local issues for struggle.


AIKS state treasurer Ghanashyam Patil placed the accounts for the last three years and these  were adopted. AIKS state joint secretary Arjun Adey placed the credentials report, which had several interesting and positive features.


The conference then unanimously elected a 85-member state council, which in turn elected 25 state office-bearers as follows: President – J P Gavit; Working President – L B Dhangar; Vice Presidents – Gangadhar Appa Burande, Krishna Khopkar, Vithalrao Naik, Nanasaheb Pokle, Lahanu Kom, Dada Raipure, Shankar Chavan, Chintaman Gavit, Jaisingh Mali, A B Patil; General Secretary – Ashok Dhawale; Joint Secretaries – Kisan Gujar, Raja Ozare, Vinayak Gaikwad, Yashwant Zade, Pandurang Rathod, Shankarrao Danav, Arjun Adey, Ramkrishna Shere, Ramesh Devre, Barkya Mangat, S M Patil; Treasurer – Ghanashyam Patil.


The concluding speech of the conference was delivered by J P Gavit, who called for a further robust growth of the Kisan Sabha in Maharashtra in the years ahead and gave several concrete and inspiring examples from his home district of Nashik that could serve as guidelines for the rest of the state.


The conference warmly congratulated and thanked the reception committee, the CITU, AIKS and AIDWA activists of Chandrapur district and the volunteers, all of whom had put in tireless efforts for weeks to ensure the resounding success of this memorable 19th state conference of the AIKS.