(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 07, 2008
RAJASTHAN ASSEMBLY POLLS
CPI(M) Candidates Generate Enthusiasm Among Voters
N S Arjun
AN old farmer Sadhu Ram, with a shabby bag strewn across his shoulder, walks into the CPI(M) district committee office in Sikar that is bustling with election activity of the Party. He stops the first person he encounters in the portico of the office and asks him animatedly “What is the position of our candidate in Laxmangarh constituency”? After getting the reassuring answer about our candidate doing very well, the farmer pitches in with his suggestions about the need to concentrate on a few villages, the names of which he reels off speedily. Then without entering the office, he walks off contentedly.
This, in essence, captures the kind of enthusiasm generated by the significant decision of the CPI(M) state committee – approved by the CC – to contest 34 seats in the present elections to Rajasthan state assembly. The Party had contested 15 seats in the 2003 elections and 18 in 1998 elections. The farmers and downtrodden sections of society, whose cause the CPI(M) has championed through relentless struggles, are rooting for the Party wherever they have an opportunity. “Wherever militant struggles took place, there we are getting maximum support from people. Thousands of farmers and workers are coming forward and working for our candidates with their own resources” said CPI(M) state secretary Vasudev Sharma who is camping in Sikar office and directing the campaign.
Given the logistical challenge of fighting from 34 constituencies, the Party had begun preparations around six months back, deputing the cadre up to booth level. But what was striking was the spontaneity in the campaign. Even Party leaders are surprised at the response coming from the people. In one of the election meetings organised in Sikar town late in the night, a poor worker walked on to dais and gave his hard-earned 200 rupees as contribution to Party election fund. In Dhod constituency the Party collected 15 lakh rupees from the people while in Laxmangarh on the first day of the campaign the people gave 8 lakh rupees.
One factor behind this enthusiasm is the kind of candidates fielded by the Party. Right from the redoubtable Hetram Beniwal and Amra Ram to the youth leaders Pankaj Dhakad and Abdul Qayoom Qureshi, all are fighters of first degree as far as people's interests are concerned. For example in Laxmangarh constituency the Party fielded B S Meel, all India general secretary of Electricity Employees Federation of India. He had during his stint as executive engineer of the Rajasthan State Electricity Board posted in the area done tremendous work in not only ensuring supply of electricity to farmers of the region but also in providing employment to the youth. He won the hearts of people as a non-corrupt, pro-farmer officer. As a leader of electricity employees he had actively participated in the strike agitation of SEB engineers in 1985. He was arrested under ESMA and terminated. The Supreme Court reinstated him after two years. After retirement, Meel actively involved in the farmers struggles led by the Party. Given this background, the farmers and people of the area are identifying more with this candidate than anyone else.
The kisan leader Pema Ram who is contesting from Dhod, which has become SC reserved constituency now, is popular among dalits for leading the Party's struggle against an incident in Khakoli village. A dalit bride groom was prevented from riding a horse by a few upper caste people. The CPI(M) took up this issue in a big way and forced the government to arrest the culprits.
The Party in its campaign is concentrating its fire mainly on the murderous record of Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in the state. In its 5 year tenure there were 57 incidents of police firing in which more than 100 people were killed. Of these 17 were farmers who were gunned down for the crime of asking for water. Thousands more were arrested and tortured. More than 100 communal incidents were engineered in the state during this period and the chief minister herself had stated publicly that Rajasthan will also be made like Gujarat. The need to prevent the return of such a brutal government is being stressed in the campaign.
The ineffectual role of Congress, which has 56 MLAs in the present assembly, as an opposition party is also being pilloried by the Party. Their keeping away from the farmers agitations launched by CPI(M) and their leaders easily joining the BJP and vice versa is being highlighted to show that there is no difference between the two parties. Although the state is polarised between the two parties, in the last assembly elections almost 25 per cent voted against both the Congress and the BJP. This gives hope for the Party that wherever a credible, effective alternative is available for the people, they may chose it.
Another aspect being highlighted is the CPI(M)'s initiative in getting the NREGA scheme into existence and in fighting against corruption in its implementation. The Party's steadfast commitment in safeguarding communal harmony is also mentioned. For example, in Sikar town during a VHP nationwide bandh call, when the BJP sought to create communal tension the CPI(M) leaders led by Amra Ram went into the field and thwarted such attempts. Of course, the militant farmers struggles led by the Party both for release of water and against electricity tariff hike during this period and their successful culmination are also being propagated.
Many top leaders of the Party including Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat, Manik Sarkar, Nilotpal Basu, Mohd Salim, Subhashini Ali took part in the campaign. Party incharge of Rajasthan state committee, Hannan Mollah has camped and extensively toured the constituencies guiding the election work.
The Party state committee is fighting these elections under the slogan Ek se Anek (from the present one seat to many) and is confident of increasing its tally in these elections. The Party has been witness to the syndrome of 'Red flag for struggles and another flag for votes' in many places. In Rajasthan there is a good opportunity for breaking this syndrome. How well it has been utilised will only be known on November 8, the day of counting of votes.