People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXX

No. 13

March 26, 2006

MAHARASHTRA

 

CPI(M) To Hold Statewide Mass Rally In Mumbai

On April 4 Around Peoples' Burning Issues

 

Ashok Dhawale

 

TWO major trends mark the political situation in Maharashtra today. The first is the severe setbacks to the Shiv Sena and disarray in the SS-BJP communal alliance. The second is the increasing discontent of the people against the INC-NCP state government due to the spate of peasant suicides, massive power shortages and load-shedding, breakdown of the public distribution system and rising unemployment.

 

FURTHER SETBACKS TO SHIV SENA

 

After the parliamentary by-election in Mumbai and the assembly by-election in Malwan, in both of which the Shiv Sena was badly trounced, five more assembly by-elections took place in the last two months. Four of these were in the Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri and Raigad districts of the Konkan region and the fifth was in Mumbai city.

 

The by-elections were necessitated by the resignations of five Shiv Sena MLAs who had left the SS and cast their lot with former SS chief minister Narayan Rane, who is now in the Congress and is revenue minister in the state government. Four of these five MLAs won with large margins as Congress candidates. This included the seat in central Mumbai, which was once a citadel of the SS. These losses, particularly the loss in Mumbai, were a big setback for the Sena.

 

In one of the seats in Konkan, the CPI(M) supported the Kunabi Sena with which it has been having joint movements in Thane district for the last couple of years. The Kunabi Sena candidate stood third with nearly 25,000 votes, which was about 3,000 more than it had got in the 2004 elections.

 

The fifth seat in Raigad district was retained by the SS for the following three reasons: (a) The presence of an NCP rebel candidate in the fray; (b) The Raigad unit of the PWP a Left party publicly supporting the SS-BJP candidate; (c) Internal dissensions within the INC. The PWP stand was particularly unfortunate and it reflected serious electoral opportunism.

 

To add to the SS discomfiture, Raj Thackeray after a statewide tour, announced last week that he would form a new political party the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) at a rally in Shivaji Park in Mumbai on March 19. Raj announced that the new party would contest the Mumbai municipal corporation elections early next year. The formation of this new outfit will certainly weaken the SS even further.

 

HEARTBURN IN THE NCP

 

With the above election results, the number of MLAs of the INC has surpassed that of the NCP for the first time since the assembly elections of 2004. This has led to considerable heartburn in the NCP, and relations between the two parties have touched a new low, with constant sniping and backbiting between their leaders.

 

This has further intensified as a result of a fast unto death undertaken in January by senior Gandhian social worker Anna Hazare on the issue of corruption of four NCP state ministers. Due to an earlier fast by him on the same issue, the state government had to institute an enquiry committee headed by former Supreme Court chief justice P B Sawant. The committee had indicted all four NCP ministers on one count or the other. A new committee was instituted headed by a former chief secretary to frame the Action Taken Report (ATR), and it promptly gave a clean chit to three of the four indicted ministers, saying that no action need be taken against them.

 

This resulted in the fast unto death by Hazare, under pressure of which the ATR had to be cancelled and a new three-member committee had to be constituted to frame a new ATR. Although this decision was collectively taken by the state cabinet, the NCP has targetted the INC for this turn of events. Meanwhile, the Mumbai High Court has permitted the launching of criminal proceedings in a corruption case involving a fifth NCP minister!

 

RETROGRADE JUDGEMENT

 

A few days ago, the Supreme Court handed down a thoroughly retrograde judgement regarding textile mill lands in Mumbai. Most of the textile mills in Mumbai have closed down over the years, throwing nearly two lakh workers on to the streets. The mill-owners, with the help of successive state governments, have gone on a spree of selling their huge mill-lands to the builder lobby at astronomical prices without even paying the legitimate dues owed to workers, and with no thought to the overall development of Mumbai city. A classic case of this was the then SS leader Raj Thackeray, in partnership with the son of another SS leader Manohar Joshi, buying the 4.9 acre Kohinoor Mill land in Mumbai for a whopping sum of Rs 421 crore! 

 

Some months ago, the Mumbai High Court in a welcome judgement had ruled that of the mill-lands to be sold, one-third would be earmarked for providing cheap housing, one-third for public parks and gardens and the remaining one-third could be sold to the builders for development. The case went to the Supreme Court in appeal. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that 87 per cent of the lands can be given to the builder lobby, while only 13 per cent need be kept for public purposes! So much for judicial activism!  

 

DISCONTENT AGAINST STATE GOVERNMENT

 

The second trend that of discontent against the INC-NCP state government has also been steadily increasing. The peasant suicides in Vidarbha continue unabated and they are spreading to Marathwada. Some cases have been reported from Western Maharashtra as well. There have been cases of peasant suicides in union agriculture and food minister Sharad Pawar's constituency of Baramati and also in chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's constituency of Latur. These are manifestations of deep agrarian crisis.

 

The 12-hour load-shedding of power all across rural Maharashtra and 4-6 hours load-shedding in urban Maharashtra continues. The shortfall in power is to the tune of 4000 MW and it is likely to rise to 5000 MW in a few months. As written in these columns earlier, the power crisis is essentially due to the corrupt deals of all four major bourgeois parties with Enron, and the refusal to give permission to the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) to set up any new power generation projects in the last 12 years.

  

The public distribution system is in shambles: thousands of poor families are denied BPL ration cards, ration grain is not available and there is large-scale corruption in the PDS. Malnutrition deaths of children in tribal areas of the state are on the rise for the last several years, but nothing tangible is done.

 

Unemployment, both rural and urban, continues to be a serious problem. The number of registered unemployed in Maharashtra has crossed 45 lakhs. Hundreds of factories have closed down or are sick. The days of employment of agricultural workers have sharply declined, and so have their real wages. Large sections of unorganised sector workers are being mercilessly exploited, with no job or social security whatsoever.

 

CPI(M) STATE RALLY IN MUMBAI ON APRIL 4

 

In view of all this, the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee has decided to organise a massive statewide rally and jail bharo stir on the budget session of the state assembly in Mumbai on April 4, 2006, on the following four burning issues: PDS-related questions, load-shedding of power, peasant suicides and rising unemployment. Extensive preparations have begun in the state to make this rally a great success. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury will address this rally. Last year, too, precisely on April 4, 2005, the CPI(M) state committee had organised a 25,000-strong statewide rally in Mumbai, on the eve of the 18th Party congress in New Delhi. To prepare for the coming rally, demonstrations of thousands at several district and tehsil centres in the state were organised from February 20 to 28.

 

Another decision taken by the state committee is to observe March 23, the 75th anniversary of martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev all over the state in a big way. This campaign will target imperialism and communalism; it will defend national sovereignty and national unity; and it will also propagate the struggle for socialism - ideals for which Bhagat Singh and his comrades laid down their lives. The Party has also decided to observe the Bhagat Singh Birth Centenary Year from September 27 and the Godavari Parulekar Birth Centenary Year from August 14 all over the state.

 

A third decision of the state committee is to take concerted steps to ensure the proper implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (REGA). Twelve districts in Maharashtra are among the 200 districts in the country where the REGA has begun to be implemented. In all districts of Maharashtra, the Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS) of the state government has been in operation, but very unsatisfactorily. The Party and AIAWU, are conducting campaigns to mobilise people to register their names and fill the application forms for getting employment. They are also insisting on the implementation of the scheme through panchayat decisions.

 

ANTI-BUSH RALLIES, AIKS CONFERENCE

 

On March 2, large demonstrations were held in almost all districts and several tehsils of Maharashtra by the CPI(M) along with other left and democratic forces to condemn imperialism and the visit of U.S. President George Bush to India. Several thousand people participated in these statewide actions. In Mumbai, various Muslim organisations joined the rally organised by the Forum Against War and Terrorism that comprised the CPI(M), CPI, SP, CITU and other trade unions and some NGOs. The Mumbai mobilisation against Bush crossed the one lakh mark. All the anti-Bush demonstrations in Maharashtra were well covered by the media.  

 

The 31st National Conference of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) was successfully held at Nashik from January 28 to 31, 2006. An AIKS national conference was being held in Maharashtra after 51 years. The conference was attended by 720 delegates from 24 states. The total amount collected for the conference from all parts of Maharashtra exceeded Rs 30 lakhs, which was another record. The AIKS membership in the state this year has crossed the two lakh mark for the first time. A big propaganda campaign for this conference was launched amongst the peasantry throughout the state. The conference arrangements were diligently made by hundreds of activists in Nashik district. Thousands of activists of the Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha put in untiring efforts for four months to ensure the success of this conference, and all other mass organisations CITU, NRMU, MSMRA, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI, SFI and others helped the AIKS in this onerous task. The organisation of this conference was a valuable learning experience.