People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 25, 2004
Vigorous Campaigning in Hoshiarpur
DATE April 10. Time 1.00 noon. Venue Hoshiarpur District Courts. There was pin-drop silence. The dissonance that otherwise marks courts across the country disappeared for a moment as the veteran and young of many a legal battle lent their ears. As the members of the bar listened to Com. Surjeet with rapt attention, Com. Surjeet turned nostalgic. He went back 72 years to recall a daring act that saw the launching of his political career. It was March 23, 1932. It was Surjeet’s 16th birthday. It was also the first anniversary of the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh. To mark the anniversary the Hoshiarpur Congress committee had decided to hoist the tricolour in place of the Union Jack at the district courts on that day. Incidentally, the governor, was to visit Hoshiarpur that day. The collector, with an aim to foil any such bid to hoist the tricolour, deployed the army and announced that anybody indulging in such an action would be shot at. On reaching the Congress office, Com. Surjeet to his dismay found that the programme had been dropped after the deployment of the army. On being challenged by a Congress worker at the office, Com. Surjeet took a flag and proceeded towards the court. The army personnel deployed at the courts had become complacent as the scheduled time had already passed. Com. Surjeet climbed up the stairs, brought down the Union Jack and hoisted the tricolour. Though two shots were fired neither of them hit Surjeet. Some army men climbed up the stairs and caught Surjeet. He was tried and imprisoned for four years.
The passion and zeal that drove him to commit that brave deed resounded in his address to the bar a full seventy two years later. Com. Surjeet was in Hoshiarpur campaigning for the CPI(M) candidate Darshan Singh Mattu.
The constituency covers the district of Hoshiarpur and a part of Ropar. The sitting Congress MP Charanjit Singh Channi, is contesting on the BSP ticket. The BSP has been attempting to capitalize on the prescene of a sizeable section of backward caste vote in this constitutency. While it polled 2,38,759 votes in alliance with the Congress in the 1998 elections, a year later fighting independently it polled 88,999 votes. BSP founder Kanshi Ram fighting in alliance with the SAD was returned for a term from this constituency. However, Ms. Mayawati faced defeat when she tried her luck from this seat some time later.
Within the Congress, while there has been an open expression of displeasure against leaving the seat for the CPI(M), the defection of Channi has flung this annoyance to the rear. This defection has in fact helped in bringing together the various feuding factions within the district Congress who have now unitedly resolved to set aside their differences and work for the victory of the CPI(M) candidate.
Discredited after exposure of corruption scandals against Prakash Singh Badal and his kin, the BJP candidate backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal has a tough task ahead.
Hoshiarpur has been a Congress strong hold and it is only on three occasions that the party has lost this seat. The BJP candidate Kamal Chaudhury had won this seat in 1998 polling 51.47 per cent of the vote as against the 40.41 per cent polled by the BSP candidate backed by the Congress. The CPI(M)’s Raghunath Singh had polled 5.87 per cent. The 1999 elections returned the Congress with its candidate polling 44.15 per cent, the BJP polling 38.26 per cent and the BSP getting 15.34 per cent. The CPI(M) did not contest. Kamal Chaudhury left the BJP some time later.
Another interesting fact is the fallout of the internal feuds in the Congress on the outcome of the 2002 assembly elections. While in the 1999 Lok Sabha elections the Congress established leads in seven of the nine assembly segments — Balachaur, Garhshankar, Mahilpur, Hoshiarpur, Dasuya, Nangal and Anandpur Sahib-Ropar, the BJP could lead only in Tanda and Garhdiwala. The results of the 2002 assembly elections was shocking for the Congress party to say the least. The Congress could win only three, while the SAD-BJP combine won 6 (SAD 4, BJP 2). The presence of Congress rebels damaged the prospects of the Congress in some constituencies. In Hoshiarpur for example, the Congress lost by a mere 208 votes while a Congress rebel polled 11,598 votes. In Garhdiwala the Congress lost by 7901 votes while a rebel polled 8248 votes.
The Jallandhar-Hoshiarpur belt is an area where the CPI(M) has been traditionally strong. It has sent its representatives to the assembly from Gharshankar, and three other constituencies in the past. It enjoys tremendous amount of goodwill and influence among the rural poor, the peasantry and the other oppressed sections. The Party is mobilising its entire might to ensure the victory of its candidate Darshan Singh Mattu. Darshan Singh Mattu had unsuccessfully contested the assembly elections from Gharshankar in 2002. With all factions of the Congress backing his candidature, local CPI(M) leaders are hopeful that Punjab will be able to send a CPI(M) MP to the Lok Sabha. Party cadres throughout the constituency are working hard for the success of their candidate. House to house campaigning, group meetings, street corner meetings have all begun in right earnest. The CPI(M) has gained an initial lead in the campaign and its posters, flags and banners greet you throughout the constituency.
The CPI(M) campaign mainly focuses on the issue of defeating the BJP and its allies; for the formation of a secular government at the Centre and to strengthen the CPI(M) and Left in Parliament. Apart from exposing the outright communal-rightwing character of the BJP, the CPI(M) is explaining to the people the disastrous consequences of the economic polices being pursued by the BJP-led NDA government, its abject surrender to US imperialism in the realm of foreign policy etc. At the local level, issues relating to development, large scale corruption of the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime in the state, non-redressal of longstanding demands of the Punjabi people viz transfer of Chandigarh to Punjab etc. apart from closure of certain public sector units and unemployment are being raised.