People's Democracy

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


No. 41

October 11, 2009

Only RLDF Highlights

Real Issues In Maharashtra


The people of Maharashtra are dejected with the present regime of Congress-NCP but at the same time they are not enthused by the BJP-Sena opposition as an alternative. It is in this scenario that there is a likelihood of the October 13 assembly polls throwing up a hung assembly in the state.


CPI(M) Maharashtra state secretary, Dr Ashok Dhawale, stated this in an interview to N S Arjun of INN in Mumbai. He was optimistic about the prospects of the recently formed Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) while stating that the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) may cut more into the Shiv Sena-BJP votes.


Below we give excerpts of the interview:


(Q): What are the main issues exercising the people in the present assembly elections?

The whole trend of development in Maharashtra � particularly since the SS-BJP government of 1995-99 and Congress-NCP government of 1999-2009 � has badly discriminated against the common working people and favoured big capitalists, builders, sugar barons, education mafia etc. The severe agrarian crisis and resultant peasant suicides in the state are an issue in this election. According to National Crime Records Bureau, 40,666 peasants have committed suicide in the state, mainly in Vidarbha, between 1995-2007. This is the highest number in the country during this period. All the packages announced by the prime minister and the chief minister provided negligible relief because they did not touch the root of the problem, viz, remunerative prices for the crops, irrigation facilities, easy access to credit etc.


Then there is the tremendous burden of price rise on all working people. Tur dal sells at around Rs 110 per kg while sugar is around Rs 40 per kg. On top of this, the public distribution system in the state is in a shambles. The kind of damage this lack of access to cheap foodgrains does can be seen from the horrible fact of over  one lakh children dying due to malnutrition in the last ten years in the Adivasi areas of the state.


The tardy implementation of NREGA in the state is another issue, exercising the agricultural labour in particular. Works are not being taken up and wherever some works are done, there is corruption while the wages being paid are very low. Various central reports have brought out the fact that NREGA implementation in Maharashtra is among the worst in the country.


Even before the financial crisis, there has been large scale retrenchment of workers � around 20 lakh jobs were lost. With the crisis, there is an all-out attack on the working class. Permanent workers are being sacked, and in their place low-wage temporary contract workers are being employed. Then there is the problem of severe power cuts, with the rural areas being denied power for 12 to 16 hours a day while in urban areas it is for 4 to 6 hours a day.


(Q): The CPI(M) took initiative for the formation of the 19-party RLDF alliance recently. How do you rate its chances?

This election is taking place in the Golden Jubilee year of formation of the state of Maharashtra.  A very big mass struggle led by Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti, which was jointly led by four main forces � the undivided Communist Party, the Republican Party of India, the Peasants and Workers Party and Praja Samajwadi Paty (former socialists) � led to the formation of the state on May 1, 1960. In this struggle 105 persons were martyred in brutal police firing by the then Congress government. And these four forces have for the first time come together again after 50 years in forming the RLDF along with other forces. It has already created an impact on the electoral scene. The mass base of the Republican Party adding to the traditional Left mass base will augur well for the front in many seats. The media is trying to portray this alliance in a negative manner but that is not the reality. Although the Congress pressurised Gavai's exit from the front, their state committee led by its president Gautam Bhalerao passed a resolution affirming their continuation in the front.


(Q): What is going to be the impact of Raj Thackeray-led MNS in these elections?

Raj Thackeray has been fully supported by the Congress-NCP alliance right from the start. Actually, that has given him the strength to indulge in violent activity. And that is why there is no action taken against him despite the violence. Just as the Congress government in the 60s encouraged Shiv Sena to break the Communist base in Mumbai, they are now encouraging MNS to cut into the Shiv Sena base. If one analyses the last Lok Sabha election results, had MNS not been there in the electoral fray, the Congress-NCP tally would have been reduced by at least 8 seats. And there are reports that like during the last Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-NCP is providing financial support to MNS this time also. By and large, the MNS may cut into SS-BJP vote and the Congress is hoping that this dent in the opposition vote will help them overcome the anti-incumbency factor.


(Q): How do you view the recent communal violence in parts of Sangli and Kolhapur districts?

The communal violence in connection with the recent Ganesh festival in parts of South Maharashtra was part of the gameplan to create communal polarisation on the eve of elections to benefit electorally. These forces tried to spread this violence to other parts also but failed as there was no response. But what is shocking is the complete inaction of the state government. It kept watching mutely for eight days as curfew continued in Miraj, Sangli and Ichalkaranj.


(Q): What is your take on the spate of rebellions in the main bourgeois parties?

There have always been rebellions in these parties. But what is different this time is their magnitude. It is unprecedented, particularly in Shiv Sena. It is clear that Bal Thackeray does not command that clout in his party anymore.


(Q): Is there the possibility of a hung assembly this time?

The people are fed up and angry with the present regime of Congress-NCP for its anti-people policies. However, the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance also does not inspire confidence given that all these policies were championed by them also during their tenure. With the MNS set to cut into Shiv Sena votes and the RLDF evoking good response among the farmers, dalits and tribals, there is every likelihood of a hung assembly this time.


(Q): Out of the 20 seats being fought by the CPI(M), ten are tribal reserved seats.

The historic Adivasi revolt in 1945, led by the Communist Party under the leadership of legendary Shamrao Parulekar and Godavari Parulekar, actually laid the foundation of our work among tribals.  We have been continuing our work since then in these areas. The issues of land, wages, employment and PDS have been consistently taken up by the Party. That is why we have a strong base among tribals and two of our three sitting MLAs in the present assembly are elected from tribal reserved seats. The Party has been winning consecutively both these tribal seats in Thane and Nashik districts for the last three decades.


(Q): Given the huge amounts of money at the disposal of the bourgeois parties, how is the CPI(M) countering it?

Well, the strength of the CPI(M) is the whole-hearted support it receives from the people in its strongholds. In places where we are fighting, we have undertaken mass collections from the people. In districts where we are not contesting, the district committees are collecting money from people and sending to the state committee as election fund.

More than this, the kind of good work our sitting MLAs have done in their constituencies will hold them in good stead against the money power of the opponents.