People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 18, 2007
CPI(M) Takes One Step Forward In ZP Polls
THE CPI(M) has made some modest gains in the recently-concluded Zilla Parishad (ZP) and Panchayat Samiti (PS) elections in Maharashtra, the voting for which took place on March 11, 2007. In most places, the Party contested independently on its own strength and in some places it forged local alliances with other small left and secular parties.
In its traditional base in Thane district, the CPI(M) won 8 ZP seats and 13 PS seats in the four tehsils of Talasari, Dahanu, Vikramgad and Jawhar. This marked an increase of 2 ZP seats over last time.
In its bastion of Talasari tehsil bordering Gujarat, where the Party has maintained its unbroken hold over all the 3 ZP seats and 6 PS seats for the last four decades and more, the CPI(M) once again made a clean sweep of all these 9 seats with huge margins. In many of these seats, either or both the rival BJP and NCP candidates once again faced the ignominy of losing their security deposits. Over the last five years, the Party increased its votes in Talasari tehsil by over 4,000 – from 27,000 to over 31,000.
The new victory in Thane district this time was the Party wresting control of the Vikramgad tehsil Panchayat Samiti for the first time, by winning a clear majority of 4 of the 6 PS seats and 2 of the 3 ZP seats. In Dahanu tehsil, the Party won 3 ZP seats and 2 PS seats. In Jawhar tehsil, it won 1 PS seat.
It is as a result of the continued mass support in Thane district that a CPI(M) MLA has been elected from the Jawhar (ST) assembly constituency for seven terms consecutively since 1978. The current MLA is Rajaram Ozare, who is also the Party’s Thane district secretary, state committee member and AIKS state vice-president.
In the other major tribal base of the Party in Nashik district, the CPI(M) maintained its strength by winning 4 ZP seats and 6 PS seats. However, the expectation that the Party would increase its strength in this district was not fulfilled. The Party retained its control over the Surgana tehsil Panchayat Samiti by winning 4 of the 6 PS seats and all the 3 ZP seats. In the new tehsil of Tryambakeshwar, the Party won 1 ZP seat and 2 PS seats for the first time. This made up for the marginal losses elsewhere. In Kalwan and Dindori tehsils, although no seats were won, the Party polled more than 10,000 votes each.
In Nashik district also, the CPI(M) has constantly won the Surgana (ST) assembly constituency for six of the seven terms since 1978. The current MLA is J P Gavit, member of the Party’s state secretariat and AIKS state president.
In both Thane and Nashik districts (and also in other tribal districts like Nandurbar, Yavatmal, Amravati, Nanded and Ahmednagar), the CPI(M), AIKS, AIDWA, DYFI and AIAWU had recently led a concerted campaign welcoming the passing of the Tribal Forest Rights Act.
In Yavatmal district of Vidarbha region, in which the maximum number of suicides of debt-ridden peasants have taken place, the Party won 1 ZP seat and 2 PS seats in the Mahagaon tehsil for the first time. Here the AIKS had recently led a militant agitation as a result of which the banks were forced to give credit to the tune of over Rs 10 crore to thousands of peasants in the area.
In the Parbhani district of Marathwada region, the Party won 1 PS seat in the Parbhani tehsil. Here also an effective struggle on burning issues of sugarcane-growing peasants and other demands was recently led by the AIKS.
Apart from the above victories, in districts like Thane, Nashik, Nanded, Beed, Parbhani, Wardha, Yavatmal, Buldana and Kolhapur, there were several seats where the Party stood either a close second or where it substantially increased its votes over last time.
ZP/PS elections in Nandurbar district had been held two years ago due to division of that district and there the Party had won 1 ZP seat and 3 PS seats. Taking these into account, the Party currently has a total of 14 ZP seats and 25 PS seats in Maharashtra.
On March 14, 2007, elections to the posts of Sabhapati and Upasabhapati of the newly-elected tehsil Panchayat Samitis were held. As against two Panchayat Samitis where the Party had its Sabhapatis last time – Talasari and Surgana – now it has won the Sabhapati post unopposed in five Panchayat Samitis – Talasari, Surgana and Vikramgad on its own strength and Tryambakeshwar and Mahagaon by forging unity of all secular forces. In the sixth Panchayat Samiti of Jawhar, it has won the post of Upasabhapati.
Thus, Hemlata Kom, Hiraji Choudhary, Kama Tabale, Anjana Raut and D B Naik have been elected Sabhapatis of the Talasari, Surgana, Vikramgad, Tryambakeshwar and Mahagaon Panchayat Samitis respectively, while Ladak Kharpade, Bhika Raut, Ramesh Kurhada and Yashwant Ghatal have been elected Upasabhapatis of the Talasari, Surgana, Vikramgad and Jawhar Panchayat Samitis respectively.
This performance of the Party in rural Maharashtra was better than its performance in the towns and cities, where it has been traditionally weak. In the municipal council and municipal corporation elections that were held in three rounds from November 2006 to February 2007, the CPI(M) won 3 municipal corporation seats in Solapur, where the current MLA is Narsayya Adam, state secretariat member and CITU state vice-president.
It drew a blank in the Mumbai and Nashik municipal corporations and did not fight any seat in major cities like Pune, Thane and Nagpur. The Party also won 1 seat each in the municipal councils of Wardha (Dist Wardha), Parbhani (Dist Parbhani), Ambajogai (Dist Beed) and Ramtek (Dist Nagpur).
Finally, it must be emphatically underlined that taking Maharashtra as a whole, the Party is still an extremely miniscule force in the electoral arena, with just 3 MLAs and the above few local body election victories. The CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee that will meet next month will conduct a detailed political-organisational and self-critical review of the just-concluded local body polls; it will also review the implementation of the One Year Plan for Party Development that was adopted by the state committee in October 2005; and in the light of both these reviews, it will prepare the blueprint for further advance of the Party and mass organisations in Maharashtra.