People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 27, 2009



Republican Left Democratic Front Gears up for Assembly Polls


One Lakh Strong Rally In Mumbai


Ashok Dhawale


ON September 12, the huge and historic Shivaji Park at Dadar in Mumbai was teeming with a sea of people hailing from all the 35 districts of Maharashtra. They carried with them thousands of flags --- red, blue, green and yellow --- of the several parties that had recently come together to form the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF). The massive Mumbai rally inaugurated the assembly election campaign of the RLDF and was widely flashed by both print and electronic media, who were taken aback by the turnout.




The distinctive feature of the men and women who came in droves was that they came from the toiling, downtrodden and oppressed sections of society. They comprised peasants, agricultural workers, industrial workers, unorganised workers, dalits, adivasis, minorities, nomadic tribes, other backward classes and other marginalised sections. There was a large proportion of youth and women. The other rare feature was that they all waited and listened in rapt attention to the cultural programme and speeches of leaders for a full five hours at a stretch, from the beginning to the very end of the rally.

The stage of the rally was massive and tastefully decorated. On one side were portraits of the progressive icons of Maharashtra --- Chhatrapati Shivaji, Mahatma Jotirao Phule, Rajarshi Shahu and Bharatratna Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. On the other side were painted the names of all the 105 martyrs who had been gunned down by the Congress regime in the course of the historic Samyukta Maharashtra movement of the fifties. This is the golden jubilee year of the formation of Maharashtra state on May 1, 1960.

The rally began with spirited and melodious songs presented by groups like the Lok Sanstritik Manch of Pune and the Praja Natya Mandal of Solapur, among others. Some of the immortal songs presented were written and sung by the legendary communist cultural artistes of Maharashtra like Amar Shaikh, Anna Bhau Sathe and Gavhankar.

Before coming to the rally, RLDF leaders paid floral tributes to the martyrs at Hutatma Chowk, then paid homage at the Chaitya Bhoomi at Dadar Chowpatty where Dr Amdbedkar was cremated and then at the statue of Raja Shivaji in the Maidan itself.




The rally was presided over by Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Ramdas Athavale and it was addressed by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, MP, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan, PWP general secretary N D Patil, RPI leaders Jogendra Kavade, Namdev Dhasal and Upendra Shende, Samajwadi Party state president Abu Asim Azmi, Swabhimani Party president Raju Shetty, MP, Samajwadi Jan Parishad leader Bhai Vaidya, PWP leader Ganpatrao Deshmukh, MLA, CPI(M) state secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale and CPI(M) MLA Narsayya Adam, CPI state secretary Dr Bhalchandra Kanago, JD(S) leader Pratap Hogade, Lok Bharati leader Kapil Patil, MLA, Rashtriya Samaj Party president Mahadev Jankar, Socialist Front convenor Subhash Ware, and others. RPI leader Arjun Dangle conducted the proceedings and PWP leader Jayant Patil, MLC, proposed the vote of thanks. SP leader and cine star Sanjay Dutt and former Indian test cricketer Vinod Kambli also graced the occasion and conveyed their greetings.

The tone and tenor of the speeches was directed against the thoroughly anti-people record of the 10 year-old Congress-NCP state government which has failed on all fronts. The communal and opportunistic machinations of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party combine, which had only recently ignited the flames of communal riots in Miraj, Sangli and Ichalkaranji, were also strongly denounced. The new Congress-led UPA government at the centre came in for blistering attack on the issues of astronomical price rise, the dynamiting of the public distribution system, the agrarian crisis and the unemployment resulting from recession. The Maharashtra Navanirman Sena and its divisive, chauvinist and violent politics, and the backing that it was getting from the state government, were widely condemned.

It was against all these forces of the ruling classes that the RLDF constituents had come together in unity after many years in order to present a pro-people alternative before the people of Maharashtra. It is significant that all the main forces that had led the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti � communists, socialists, other leftists and Republicans � have once again come together in a common democratic, secular and progressive cause to form the RLDF. All the speakers gave a clarion call to elect RLDF candidates in large numbers in the coming assembly elections. They also called for sustained joint struggles on burning issues of the people which in turn would help in further cementing the unity and strength of the RLDF. The rally concluded amidst great enthusiasm and determination.




The Left Democratic Front (LDF) had been formed in Maharashtra on February 6, 2009 at a meeting in the CPI(M) state committee office �Janashakti� in Mumbai on the eve of the last Lok Sabha elections. It comprised the CPI(M), CPI, PWP, JD(S), Swabhimani Party and the Socialist Front. The LDF fought the Lok Sabha polls unitedly and won two seats in Kolhapur district in a popular wave against the INC-NCP alliance. The CPI(M) got a fair number of votes in two other seats and the JD(S) in one seat.

The 2009 Lok Sabha polls saw the defeat of all three RPI candidates in the fray. Two of them --- Ramdas Athavale and Rajendra Gavai --- fought as part of the INC-NCP alliance while Prakash Ambedkar fought independently. This led to a wave of anger among the pro-Republican dalit masses who rightly concluded that both the Congresses had deliberately sabotaged the chances of their leaders. It was this mass pressure that rapidly led to a chain of further events.

Ramdas Athavale took the lead in forging Republican unity and all major factions, except the Prakash Ambedkar faction, came together to resurrect the Republican Party of India, which had been founded by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Both the INC-NCP and the SS-BJP tried to entice the united RPI to their fold. But Athavale refused the Rajya Sabha ticket offered to him last month by the NCP and also rejected out of hand the offer of a future deputy chief ministership dangled by the SS-BJP.

The LDF --- particularly the PWP and the CPI(M) --- reached out to the RPI and invited it to be a major part of the emerging third front. The RPI accepted the invitation. Other forces like the SP and some small secular parties under the banner of the Parivartan Front also agreed to join the new coalition.

On August 24, 2009, the RLDF comprising 19 different parties was formed at a meeting at the PWP office in Mumbai and this development was reported in a jam-packed press conference the same day. A sceptical media initially tried to ridicule the event, wondering how this new-found unity would weather the travails of ticket distribution for the assembly elections.




But within only 15 days, at a press conference held on September 7, the RLDF declared its seat sharing formula for 200 of the 288 assembly seats. At the time of filing this report, seat sharing for 270 seats has been completed. On September 12, the RLDF held its first rally in Mumbai, described above. On September 15, it released its election manifesto at another press conference and printed one lakh copies of it for distribution in each assembly constituency. On September 23, it began its series of joint election rallies in the districts. In every one of these steps, the RLDF was far ahead of its two main rivals.

In a newly formed front of this nature, some problems were bound to crop up. One of them came recently when Rajendra Gavai, son of Kerala governor R S Gavai, left both the RLDF and the united RPI, and declared that he would fight 15 seats on his own strength. It was clear that the Gavai father-son duo had once again succumbed to the Congress pressure. But most of Gavai�s associates unequivocally declared that they would remain with the RLDF and the united RPI, regardless of Gavai�s antics.

The RLDF will put up a good fight in many assembly constituencies and will try to win as many seats as possible in the statewide polling on October 13, 2009. It is the first time in many years in Maharashtra that a third front has been able to fight all the 288 assembly seats in the state. This is certainly a welcome development. However, much will depend on the election results that will be declared on October 22. Various contentious political issues that might crop up will have to be dealt with as they come.

As part of the RLDF, the CPI(M) will be contesting around 20 seats in this election. All the three sitting MLAs of the party are in the fray. There are three women candidates. The CPI(M) campaign in these seats has already begun and is now picking up steam. CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, Polit Bureau member and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, Polit Bureau members M K Pandhe, Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat and Central Committee members Mohd Salim and Subhashini Ali will take part in the spirited election campaign in Maharashtra from October 1 to 10.