People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 42

October 18, 2009

UNPRECEDENTED USE OF MONEY POWER

Will Solapur Central Beat Madurai?

 

N S Arjun

 

UNION power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's daughter, Pranita Shinde, is in the race to beat the record of DMK president M Karunanidhi's son, M K Azhagiri, in so far as spending unprecedented amounts of money to bribe their way to victory in election goes. As in Madurai Lok Sabha constituency, it is the CPI(M) candidate here in Solapur City central assembly consituency who is being sought to be defeated by throwing notes at the voters.

 

A veteran of many battles both electoral and mass struggles   CPI(M) candidate from this constituency and sitting MLA, Narsayya Adam, is, however, very confident of vanquishing the money power. He has won thrice from Solapur in 1978, 1995 and 2004 and has an excellent track-record of working for the welfare of the working people of this city. He was even awarded the best legislator award for raising and speaking on important issues in the House and also for his cent per cent attendance. This was presented to him by the President of India, Pratibha Patil, just a few months back.

 

On the contrary, his opponent Congress candidate, Pranita Shinde, is a novice in politics and is fighting her first electoral battle under the 'able' guidance of her father. The only experience of public work, if one can call that, has been her establishing an NGO, Jai Jwee Manch last year.

 

It appears the Congress managers, including the father-daughter duo, have come to the conclusion that the only way such a strong man of the masses can be defeated is through unprecedented use of money. It is learnt that around ten days back itself, one lakh rupees was given to each of the 266 booth committees for chai paani expenses through the leaders. Liquor and non-vegetarian food is being provided abundantly in slums and other working class areas. There are reports that the Congress camp is preparing to directly give around 1000 to 1200 rupees to each voter! There are 2,70,998 voters in this constituency and even if they give to 60 per cent of them it would amount to a whopping 17 crore rupees.

 

The CPI(M) cadre is on high alert and making it difficult for the Congress managers to freely accomplish their task. Based on tip-offs, the CPI(M) workers raided and obstructed the distribution of liquor and food in four places. They lodged complaints with both the police and the state electoral office, who have not acted on these. In one instance when a group of persons were distributing money at some distance to the CPI(M) city office, Party workers rushed and caught hold of them. In the ensuing scuffle, the Congress workers managed to remove the money from there. The police,  who were alerted before the CPI(M) workers came to the scene, reached very late. And they let the Congressmen off when they said they were just distributing voter slips!

 

The reason for such laxness on the part of the administration is not far to seek. With the union minister of power and former chief minister of the state, Sushil Kumar Shinde, himself camping in the city along with an array of state ministers to oversee his daughter's electoral prospects, the administration is preferring to look the other way. The CPI(M) has complained to the Election Commission about the misuse of administration by the Congress ministers. It has also intensified efforts to prevent the use of money power but the Congress camp is evolving new methods for distributing money, including use of stealthy sign language. With mass distribution ruled out due to heightened CPI(M) alertness, the Congress camp is forced to distribute money through its leaders at the lower level, with full knowledge of the possibility of siphoning off! Their access to huge amounts of money makes this only a minor irritant.

 

Complementing this, they have enrolled the services of Bollywood stars to woo the voters. On Friday, Salman Khan conducted a road show in Solapur city. Earlier another star Sunil Shetty was paraded in support of the Congress candidate.

 

WHAT THEY ARE

UP AGAINST

 

Solapur, known for its textile mills and beedi industry, has a rich history of militant working class struggles dating back to the British period. In 1920, thousands of textile workers waged struggle against long working hours and low wages. The British intervened on behalf of the mill owners and tried to crush the struggle using force. Seven workers were killed in the firing. However the struggle continued and the owners were forced to raise the wages by one anna (1/16 of a rupee) and also agree to providing food at cheaper rates.  In 1931, the pollitically aware working class of this city revolted against the British, forcing them to flee and take shelter in railway stations and other areas. For four days, Solapur was almost a liberated area. Later, the Army entered the city and quelled the rebellion. Four working class leaders Qurban Hussein, Mallappa Dhansetty, Srikrishna Sarada and Shinde were hanged to death for leading this rebellion.

 

The Communist Party concentrated on Solapur after these events and deputed leaders, including Comrade Meenkashi Sane and G D Sane, who stayed here and began organising the working class. The migrants from neighbouring Andhra Pradesh brought weaving and beedi-making skills to this place leading to flourishing of beedi and textile industry. Comrade Meenakshi Sani, an educated middle class woman, worked among the beedi workers (who are all predominantly women even today). She was instrumental in forming the Beedi Kamgar Sanghatan, which even today is the main union among beedi workers in Solapur. Post-independence, Comrade G D Sane was first elected as MLA from this constituency.

 

This working class legacy is being carried forward by the CPI(M) and its leader Narsayya Adam, who  himself was a textile worker before becoming the MLA from Solapur North for the first time in 1978. For one decade before this, he worked actively in the trade union front, concentrating mainly on the unorganised sector. Along with the class struggle, issues like literacy, health camps for workers, rehabilitation for child labour etc were taken up seriously. Today, in the entire state it is only in Solapur that the National Child Labour Rehabilitation Project is active. There is also a Jhopad Patti Sanghatan, which works mainly on the problems of slum-dwellers.

 

Narsayya Adam was again elected as MLA in 1995 and in 2004 from Solapur South. During his tenure, he was instrumental in getting many projects for the benefit of workers. Among them is the biggest housing project for beedi workers in entire Asia, Comrade Godutai Parulekar Gharkul, in which 10,000 houses were constructed for beedi workers in 400 acres land. Each house of 255 sft constructed area is built on a 555 sft plot. This colony, built with state government, central government contributions of 20,000 rupees each and workers contribution of 10,000 rupees each,  was inaugurated by the prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2007. Another 5000 houses for beedi workers are being constructed in the Comrade Meenakshi Sani Gharkul. Around 11,000 BPL cards were got issued to beedi workers. Thousands of  workers of closed textile mills got their dues amounting to nearly 34 crore rupees sanctioned with the help of Adam Master. Work for sanction of houses for dalits and Muslims people is already in progress. Space constraint prevents listing here all the good work done for the welfare of the working people. So, this is what the Congress money bags are up against. It remains to be seen whether they will overcome such concrete work with sheer money power.