People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
May 23, 2004
witnessed very low polling in the Lok Sabha elections, revealing the voters’
revulsion for the BJP. In the end, going by hindsight, it was not surprising
that the BJP lost 7 seats in these polls. Its seat tally came down to 14 from
21, against its hope of taking it to 23 or 24, out of a total of 26 seats in the
The popular revulsion towards the Narendra Modi style of governance was also evident in Gandhinagar from where L K Advani was contesting. The seat witnessed only 37 per cent polling. The seat from where state BJP president Kanshiram Rana was contesting, also witnessed less than 37 per cent polling.
the Lok Sabha election in the state, the BJP preferred to offer Narendra Modi as
its ‘hero’ and painted him as the second Vallabhbhai Patel (“Doosra Sardar”).
It is thus clear that the low voter turnout is being dubbed as a slap in
Sangh Parivar, including A B Vajpayee, also tried to make political capital in
the name of Godhra and sought to play the Hindutva card. Yet all these tactics
failed to give the BJP the dividend it was expecting.
Gujarat people’s revulsion against the Hindutva politics was coupled and
reinforced by the anti-people’s policies the BJP’s Modi government in the
state and the Vajpayee government at the centre were pursuing.
In the state, in a very short period, the BJP regime 1) effected a sharp
hike in the rural electricity supply rates, 2) hiked the fees in schools and
colleges by 300 to 800 per cent, 3) effected the highest ever hike in the state
transport fares, 4) effected a hike of Rs 20 per kg in edible oil prices in
order to benefit the telia rajas
(edible oil magnates), and 5) effected a spiral rise in irrigation charges, to
name only some of the steps. It was therefore natural that mass discontent went
up to a climax in the state.
the same time, the administration’s brutality had reached its peak. The
agitation of school and college students against the fee hikes was suppressed by
brute force, and a severe lathicharge was unleashed on the agitating peasants.
But, the steps taken to suppress the masses only added to the anti-BJP feelings.
Modi government continued to adopt openly anti-minority and anti-Dalit
positions. Several innocent Muslims were interned under the draconian POTA, thus
exposing the Modi regime’s fascistic face to the masses.
the other hand, Modi’s style of ruling generated strong opposition within the
BJP. The Modi group tried to ensure, though in vain, that the state BJP
president did not get a ticket. The Modi-Keshubhai Patel dispute also reached a
new climax. With open encouragement from Modi, two BJP MLAs of Bhavnagar openly
worked against the state BJP president who was contesting from Bhavnagar, and
the poor fellow had to file a complaint with the national level leadership.
Similarly, Keshubhai Patel’s supporters refused to work for the candidates
close to Modi.
such a situation, it is evident that if only the Congress were firmly united,
the BJP’s defeat would have been more dismal. But the Congress, till the last
moment, remained deeply divided. The state Congress president was changed at the
eleventh hour. Due to its internal groupism, the Congress failed to attract a
large number if anti-BJP as well as non-committed voters, contributing to the
phenomenon of low polling.
these elections, at least 6 seats were decided by less than 10,000 margin and
the BJP could well have lost them if only the Congress had put in more sustained
the last elections, the BJP had succeeded in swaying the tribals by its communal
tirade. But the trick failed this time. This also contributed to the BJP’s
losses. In tribal areas, the BJP’s votes were considerably reduced.
In these polls the CPI(M) contested the Dahod seat, a seat reserved for tribals. On the remaining 25 seats, the party extended support to those who could, in its perception, defeat the BJP. However, in Gujarat, there were straight contests between the Congress and the BJP in all the seats.
CPI(M) state committee got translated and printed in Gujarati the party’s
election manifesto, in its fortnightly vernacular organ Sarfarosh
Chintan; 6,000 copies of the same were distributed. Party general body
meetings were conducted in all districts.
the Congress did not ask the CPI(M) for support. But after the election process
moved ahead, its leaders officially began to approach the CPI(M). At the state
level, state Congress president made an official request to the CPI(M).
Dahod parliamentary constituency, an Adivasi convention was held at Santrampur
on March 16, which was attended by around 1,000 workers. It was from here that
the candidature of Singejibhai Katara was announced. An election committee was
also formed during the convention.
state secretariat of the CPI(M) planned the whole election campaign. Intense
campaigning was conducted in three assembly segments (Santrampur, Fetehpura and
Zalod) out of the seven that formed the Dahod Lok Sabha constituency.
large number of four-page folders and 50,000 handbills were printed and
distributed at weekly taluka bazaars in six assembly segments, within the very
first week of the campaign. Posters sent by the party centre were pasted in 5
Sen, a member of the Party’s central committee, spent three days (April 6, 7
and 8) in the state, and addressed one public meeting at Santrampur. Here, a
party office was also inaugurated on April 7. Village visits were organised on
jathas and roadside meetings were also organised during the jatha marches. These
meetings received good response, and 200 to 1,500 people attended each meeting.
the second phase of the campaign, 40,000 handbills were printed and distributed.
These reminded the people of the CPI(M)’s election symbol and its location on
the electronic voting machine.
the start of the campaign, polling booths were divided into categories A, B, C
and D, depending upon our influence in two main assembly segments, and separate
teams were formed to man these booths. However, the work could not be
satisfactorily performed due to the limited number of cadres.
the CPI(M) handbill distribution work covered weekly bazaars in 6 assembly
segments out of 7. We also contacted the people affected by the Gujarat communal
carnage, whom we had extended help during that period.