People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 25, 2004
Left's Intense Campaign Evokes Strong Support
THE election campaign of the Bengal Left Front has gathered momentum as the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections approached. Along with group meetings and processions as well as colourful jathas, the Left Front candidates are presently engaged in both house-to-house campaign for the second time around and these are now being interspersed with small-to-medium-sized public rallies that are held in the evenings away from the heat and dust of April.
The past weeks saw many Left Front candidates, including the CPI(M) candidate from Jadavpur, the former student leader, Sujan Chakravarty, roam around parts of their constituencies in an intense day-long exercise with a small pause during the mid-day. In the mornings, the CPI(M) candidate from Bankura, Basudeb Acharya met a large number of the members of his constituency in the town and in the suburbs as well.
In all the districts, the house-to-house campaign has become very popular. Typically, a candidate would approach a household, make enquiries about the well being of the family, and then give a very brief political speech castigating with facts and figures the lie campaign of the BJP and highlighting the achievements of the Bengal Left Front over the past 27 years. They would conclude with the programmes and developmental plans that the Left Front government has in store for the people. Sometimes a bit of a debate ensues and settles amicably.
The only problem that has to be negotiated with tact is the regulation offer of sweetmeats and cold water and tea in most of the households visited. As one CPI(M) candidate commented, "I would not need a formal lunch during the days of campaigning from the look of it."
In Kolkata, the three Left Front-nominated CPI(M) candidates, Mohammed Salim (northeast), Rabin Deb (south), and Sudhangsu Sil (northwest) have been engaged in taking part in group meetings, smaller baithak meetings, and house-to-house campaign of an intense nature given the huge population they have to contend with. On the first day of the Bengali calendar, Polila Baisakh, Salim took part in a large procession of writers and intellectuals, and singers that went from Tolluh Park to Azad Hind Bag in central Kolkata.
In the districts, baithak meetings and haat meetings dominated. Processions were taken out along the fields of crop over the meandering small strips of land that differentiates one plot from another. A big rally was organised in the Dasnagar area in the district of Howrah. The CPI(M) candidate Swadesh Chakraborty was the principle speaker and the rally drew a large number of the people of the area. Hannan Mollah addressed another big rally at Uluberia where he is the CPI(M) candidate.
BJP’S HIDDEN AGENDA HAS COME TO THE FORE: PRAKASH
The so-called ‘hidden’ agenda of the BJP was no longer in hiding: it has come out into the open, especially and not only, over the issue of religious fundamentalism of the aggressive Hindutva kind. The Supreme Court verdict on the Best Bakery case has made things very clear in this regard. Prakash Karat, senior CPI(M) leader, and a member of the CPI(M) Polit Bureau while addressing a ‘Meet the Press’ programme at the Kolkata Press Club on April 16 spoke these words.
The Supreme Court verdict on the Best Bakery case has clearly highlighted the fact that there is no perceived law-and-order situation existing in Gujarat while asking the case to be transferred for hearing to a neighbouring state. The verdict mentions, inter alia, that the Gujarat governance, as it is, would not bother about the Constitutional norms existing in the country.
Had it been any other political party other than the BJP, there would have occurred a change in the chief ministership following the indictment of the apex court. The BJP has expectedly not done this but has stood by Narendra Modi as a ‘good man and a good chief minister.’
Karat pointed out with clarity that what happened in Gujarat in 2002 was nothing but an experimental ‘test.’ The BJP, Karat was sure, would try to put this heinous policy of creation of communal divide across the nation, if it could. The so-called vision document of the BJP and the NDA manifesto both give pride of place to the Ram Mandir issue.
Turning his attention to the scandal at Lucknow where twenty-five hapless and poor people had to perish in rush to collect saris that the BJP had promised them after collecting a tidy sum from each, he said that this was not merely a transgression of the model code of conduct.
This was an example of a very shameful kind of an utterly corrupt practice that was in direct contravention of election regulations. Karat expected the Election Commission to take a view from this outlook and punish the guilty.
Prakash Karat said that twenty-five victims lost their lives in a terribly painful manner, crushed underfoot, and it was the BJP that was completely responsible for the deaths. He commented that the Lucknow massacre highlighted the stark poverty in the nation, in the process exposing the hollowness of the BJP’s "India Shining" campaign.
Karat was of the firm opinion that despite the outlook gathered and publicised in the so-called poll surveys to the contrary, there was no way the BJP-led NDA alliance could be able to come back to office.
Turning to the issue of post-election government at the centre, Karat said that the CPI(M) and the Left "have called both for the defeat of the BJP and the formation of an alternate secular governance and for the enhancement of the strength of the Left in the new Lok Sabha." The new government will not be a one-party formation but a coalition. The way and the manner in which it would be formed would be made clear once the results are in.
Whether the CPI(M) takes part in this coalition or not, it would certainly play an important part in its formation, assured Karat. ‘We are certain, however, that no alternate government could be formed without a meaningful role of the Left," commented the CPI(M) leader. He added to say that the Congress manifesto had little of importance to offer a change from that published by the BJP on the economic issues. That is why the policy of the CPI(M) is not to go in for an alliance with the Congress, the senior CPI(M) leader clarified.
The CPI(M) is engaged in an electoral battle with the Congress in Kerala, Tripura, and Bengal. In places the strength of the CPI(M) is not enough to fight on its own and win, it has adopted a policy of forming an independent platform from where the message emanates against the division of the secular votes, especially in places where the BJP is pitted against the Congress. The principle aim of the CPI(M), concluded Karat, "is to make sure that the communal BJP is defeated."
ALTERNATE AGRICULTURAL POLICY PAID DIVIDENDS
The Bengal Left Front has been engaged in implementing an alternate agricultural policy for some time now, resisting in the process the vicious fall-outs of the imperialist globalisation. It is by following the alternate agricultural policy that the state has achieved the prime position in India in agricultural production. The state LF government’s finance minister and CPI(M) leader, Dr Asim Dasgupta, said this. Dr Dasgupta was addressing a seminar on April 17 on imperialist globalisation of agriculture and the outlook of the Bengal Left Front government.
Dr Dasgupta said that from 1999 in particular, the union government started to throw its portals wide open in the field of agriculture for imports to rush in as per the dictates of the IMF and the WTO. Import duties started to go down in order to allow the MNCs and TNCs to flood the Indian market with cheap imports jeopardising the Indian kisan. Quantitative restrictions on more than one thousand items were withdrawn. Now even plots of agricultural lands are being offered on a platter to the MNCs.
The Left Front government constantly wages battle against the policies of the union government in agriculture. The prime reason why the quantum as well as the quality of agricultural production has shot up in the state has to be found in the extensive programme of redistributive land reforms that this government has undertaken.
At the same time, extension of irrigation, minor and major, use of improved quality of seeds and seedlings, and an administrative and functional decentralisation of the infrastructure governing agriculture, too, have helped in this direction. As a result, the state takes the pride of place in the country in rice and vegetable. It holds the second position as far production of potato is concerned.
At the moment, 65 per cent of the cultivable land has been brought under tilling. The aim is to enhance this figure by and by. The use of biological fertilisers and pesticides will be continuously increased. More loans will be released from the cooperative and agricultural banks, in particular. Agro-marketing will be additionally improved. Agricultural cooperatives will be further strengthened. Self-help groups will be built up among the peasants and farmers. Agricultural clinics will be built up across the state. "In this way, the Left Front government shall continuously build up its pro-people and pro-kisan agricultural policy," concluded Dr Asim Dasgupta.