(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 26, 2009
CPI(M)’s Election Campaign In Gujarat
& Arun Mehta
GUJARAT is one of those states where the democratic and secular forces have a tough task at their hand. The post-Godhra carnage perpetrated on the minorities in 2002 by the Sangh Parivar – with the direct and indirect help of the Modi government – is still in memory of all secular-minded people.
With the determination of making a dent in this Sangh Parivar stronghold Election, the CPI(M) has decided to fight in two constituencies in Gujarat in the current general election – Dahod tribal constituency and Rajkot general constituency. The election will take place on April 30, 2009.
In Gujarat, there are total of 26 parliament seats. In the 2004 elections, the BJP won 14 and the Congress bagged 12. The CPI(M) fought for the first time in Dahod in 2004 and polled around 16,000 votes. The BJP candidate Katara who won was later caught in a shameful corruption scandal of trafficking people abroad by wrongly showing them as family members. This time the BJP has fielded a recent convert from Congress as its candidate from here. The Congress, which never fought against the Hindutva brand politics of Narendra Modi, was poached upon by the BJP. Four Congress leaders switched sides and were rewarded with tickets in four constituencies. It is no strange coincidence that those Congress leaders who are big contractors/builders are being favoured by the Modi government with government contracts. The Congress is not a genuine political force in Gujarat to oppose and fight communal Hindutva politics of Modi government and Sangh Parivar. Its compromising nature with communal forces is starkly evident in the fact that like the BJP it has also not fielded a single person from the minority community as its candidate from the state.
It is in this deeply communal background that the CPI(M) is fighting in two constituencies. Dahod, a tribal-dominated constituency with a pocket of minority population is entirely hilly and desert like. For drinking water, villagers have to trek three/four kilometres and fetch. The living conditions of people are extremely miserable. Singhji Bhai Katara is the CPI(M) candidate in this constituency. He is a local and well-known candidate and is eliciting good response from the people. The meeting addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M K Pandhe recently at Fatehpura in the constituency which was a big success.
Rajkot has a mixed population comprising the very rich, middle class, dalits and other downtrodden people and cultivators, mostly in the rural areas. However, this is mainly an urban constituency with four of the seven assembly segments located within Rajkot’s urban area. Here CPI(M) has put up Sudhirbhai Joshi, an educated middle class comrade as our candidate. He is well-known and respected as a social worker in the area. Another positive factor is that Rajkot is a centre for all trade unions with the presence of a number of public sector units, both central and state, banks, insurance, road transport etc. CPI(M) is recognized and sympathized with by many of the workers and employees in this area for steadfastly trying to protect their interests. Added to this the CPI(M) led a successful agitation for sanctioning of BPL ration cards for the poor. Party candidate was at the forefront of this agitation which resulted in granting of around 42,000 BPL cards to the poor. All India State Government Employees Federation (AISGEF) leader Sukomal Sen’s campaign for two days in the constituency made an impact among the employees here.
In both these constituencies, the CPI(M) is concentrating on national issues, particularly the adverse impact of the ongoing economic crisis on the people, the need for a third alternative government which would provide relief to the people in such trying times etc.
The Party has set-up its election machinery in both the constituencies and they are relentlessly working by organising group meetings in every village of these two constituencies. Booth level committees are being formed in many areas.
CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Brinda Karat and M K Pandhe, addressed one rally each in Rajkot and Dahod. Sukomal Sen, Arun Mehta and other leaders are extensively touring the constituencies and addressing small and big group meetings. In Rajkot, there is a perceptible change in mind among the voters. Known as a bastion of erstwhile Hindu Mahasabha and now RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, the people of this area are receptive to the campaign of the CPI() which is fighting from here for the first time. Voters are critical of both the BJP and the Congress, particularly regarding the high prices of essential commodities.
Campaigning in these constituencies is a tough task due to unbearable heat of around 45 degree Celsius. Despite this, the CPI(M) is organising a number of meetings every day. Our workers are relentlessly moving around disregarding this oppressive heat. It is heartening to see positive response from employees and other middle class sections in Rajkot. On April 15, a middle class progressive organisation called us to address a meeting where about 55 men and women, mostly college teachers, doctors and lawyers, pledged support to our candidate Sudhirbhai Joshi. He is getting support of other sections of voters also.
We are getting some publicity in the media although it has become a practice here for the media to demand money for publishing any news.