People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIII

No. 46

November 15, 2009

MAHARASHTRA

 

Third Alternative has Become a Historical Necessity

 

P R Krishnan

 

SOON after the results of elections to the three state assemblies, viz that in Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh and Haryana, became known on October 22, 2009, academicians of the Department of Civics and Politics in the University of Mumbai organised a seminar of considerable political importance on the topic of “Maharashtra Assembly Election 2009: Prospects of Furthering a Viable Political Alternative.” A topic of this kind was particularly appropriate to this state because it was here in the Maharashtra assembly election that, for the first time in the last 50 years, the Republican Party of India came to have an alliance with the Left parties and other secular and democratic parties against the Congress led UPA and the BJP led NDA to fight the elections. This third front in Maharashtra comprised 17 parties, in which the Republican Party of India was an important partner.

However, the results in Maharashtra or in the other two states (Arunachal Pradesh and Haryana) have shown that the people did not take serious note of such a front. What happened in Maharashtra and Arunachal Pradesh was that the ruling Congress party led alliance got absolute majority, whereas in Haryana it came close to a majority. But whether in majority or minority, Haryana is known for changing a minority into a majority and a majority into a minority, through horse trading of ayarams and gayarams, and this precisely was what we saw quite recently. It is in that context that a premier academic institution like the University of Mumbai organise the said seminar with. The speakers invited were Sitaram Yechury, the CPI(M)’s Polit Bureau member, and Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharatiya Republican Paksha – Bahujan Mahasangh.

It may be mentioned here that Prakash Ambedkar’s party, which won two seats in the latest Maharashtra assembly elections, was not a part of the Republican, Left and Democratic Front (RLDF) formed in Maharashtra for these assembly elections. Even then, the Department of Civics and Politics in the university deemed it necessary to invite him and share the platform with Sitaram Yechury. The audience was anxious to hear both the leaders.

The speech by Sitaram Yechury was forthright in regard to mobilising the Left, democratic and secular forces as well as dalits and all other weaker sections in the society against the anti-working class, anti-people policies of the Congress led UPA and the BJP led NDA. Yechury said, “This has become necessary because any other alliance getting formed just before elections is not taken seriously by the people. This is clear from the results of the last parliamentary elections and subsequent elections to the three state assemblies. But that does not invalidate the significance and relevance of the third front. In fact, the events make it all the more necessary and relevant.”

Yechury further said that “a pluralistic society like our country cannot have bipolarity. Instead, multipolarity and multinationality has become the reality of the day. Coalition politics is nothing but the sign of maturity of Indian democracy.” The CPI(M) leader then said, “though people have one man one vote, they do not have one man one economic value. Unless this dichotomy between politics and economy is resolved, a viable alternative may not become sustainable.” He then went on to explain that “we have on the one hand the example of shining India and on the other hand of the suffering India. Hence, we should not have only an electoral alternative; we should have policy alternative as well.” Yechury then added that “the neo-liberal economic perception of our government is leading the country towards political apathy. If this trend continues, we will land in anarchy. This view is supported by the fact that our country has less voter turnout.” Yechury therefore stressed that “social oppression and economic suppression must be addressed together to form a viable alternative to the Congress led UPA and the BJP led NDA.” In this regard, he concluded that “such an alternative is all the more necessary. We have also to campaign for a system of proportional representation in our country.”

In his speech, Prakash Ambedkar said dalit leaders in India had been striving hard to eradicate economic exploitation and social inequality. He narrated the examples of extravagance of money power playing havoc in the elections and opined that we are at the crossroads. He expressed concern about the current political system. A two-party system, according to him, “will be a failure. This is because of the vastness and existence of various nationalities in our country. Various regional parties, with their regional issues, are partners in the central government. This is creating peculiar situations.” Prakash Ambedkar then said that the problems of dalits are associated with the Hindu religion based on caste exploitation. Dalits and OBCs are deprived of their rights due to the outlook of the government. This, according to him, does not favour the deprived classes of the society. Elections are becoming more expensive for the weaker sections. He further said that “to sustain their casteist agenda the upper class elites are supplementing it with economic resources at their disposal.” He was therefore strongly of the view that there is a necessity for a third viable alternative to get rid of the present exploitative system. He said the parties with different ideologies must come together to form a viable alternative.

Dr Jose George, professor and head of the Department of Civics and Politics, presented the introductory speech. He said that it was no longer the prerogative of the political leaders and parties to embark upon the task of the election analysis. The academicians have also a role to play and to educate the people regarding the direction in which the electorate should lead the nation. It was in that context that his department had organised this seminar, said Professor Jose George.

Professor K K Theckedath, leader of college and university teachers association, presided. Avinash Khandare, a senior research scholar, delivered the welcome speech and Dr Kannamma Raman, reader in the department, proposed the vote of thanks. The large number of people who attended the meeting included academicians, political activists, researchers, students and teachers. Amongst them were the CPI(M) leader Ashok Dhavale, CITU leader  K L Bajaj and Kamgar Aghadi president Dada Samant.

A meeting of this nature was unique in the history of the University of Mumbai. In fact, it has to be specially mentioned here before concluding that this university has a record of inviting prominent leaders and personalities to speak on different subjects. To name a few, Somnath Chatterjee delivered the G V Mavalankar Memorial Lecture on Parliamentary System in India (2002), Dr Thomas Isaac and P Sainath spoke on Decentralisation in Kerala (2006), Professor Aijaz Ahmad on Developments in Latin America (2007), S Ramachandran Pillai on Agrarian Crisis (Godavari Parulekar Memorial Lecture, 2007), Prakash Karat, P Govinda Pillai and Ashok Dhawale on Rethinking Radicalism in India at Bhagat Singh Birth Centenary in 2007, Kamal Mitra Chenoy on Indo-US Nuclear Deal (2008), K N Panikkar on Inclusive Nationalism (2009), M K Pandhe on Working Class Movement in India (2009), and now Sitaram Yechury and Prakash Ambedkar have spoken on a Viable Political Alternative. For all this, credit goes to the Department of Civics and Politics, Professor Jose George and his colleagues.