People's Democracy

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


No. 47

November 25, 2012




Kasumpti Witnesses New Campaign Style



Rajendra Sharma on Return from Himachal


A UNIQUE style of politics and poll campaign has been visible this time in Kasumpti, a semi-rural, semi-urban assembly constituency in Shimla district of Himachal Pradesh. The credit for this style goes to Kuldeep Singh Tanwar, the CPI(M)’s candidate here. Before he opted for premature retirement, he had been a high level administrative officer in the state and has been active in the literacy campaign and Gyan-Vigyan movement. It was in these campaigns where he earned the image of a selfless social worker, which is his asset now that he is active in politics and has contested an election for the first time. Tanwar has a deep understanding of the problems of the people and the requirements of development in this backward area, and he earned this understanding through his active participation in the movements and agitations on the demands of the peasantry and other sections.


There are about one and a half thousand voters in Kasumpti assembly constituency, and they are covered in five and a half wards of the Shimla municipal corporation. The CPI(M) got a big lead in all these wards except one when elections for the mayor and deputy mayor posts of municipal corporation took place five months ago. It was during an expansion of the coverage of Shimla municipal corporation that some semi-rural areas, including Kasumpti as well as some parts of the Shimla Rural assembly constituency, were incorporated in the municipal area and these are now called “merged areas.” In his election meetings, Kuldeep Tanwar forcefully raised the problems of these areas that were suddenly merged in the municipal areas. About one third of the population of these areas is of peasants, and their problem is that most of the houses constructed here have been declared illegal or irregular under the municipal laws. Another problem is that of property tax that is being calculated by the “unit area” method, which means much heavier tax burden for the people than earlier. Tanwar also reminds the electorate that the BJP government has stopped the annual grant of three crore rupees that was sanctioned for development of the merged areas.


A big chunk of the urban population is of middle or lower middle class employees who purchased land here and got their houses constructed or who live in rented houses.


Tanwar has been forcefully raising --- and raised during his poll campaign --- the issue of extreme backwardness of the rural part of Kasumpti assembly constituency. There is not a single college in the whole constituency. It does have an ITI (Industrial Training Institute), but only two trades (motor mechanic and fitter) are taught here. As many as 15 out of 19 senior secondary schools here have no facility of either science or commerce education. The area is backward in regard to health, roads and transport, and other aspects. Some 90 per cent of the people are dependent on agriculture; many of them are vegetable growers. Tanwar has been raising the problems facing agriculture and horticulture here. Last year the CPI(M) and Kisan Sabha conducted a powerful agitation on the loot of these peasants in Dhali, the main centre of bulk purchase of vegetables by traders. Apart from registering other gains, the agitation also succeeded in getting an electronic weighing machine installed at the mandi in Dhali, which is benefiting all the vegetable growers who bring their products here.


In Kasumpti, Kuldeep Tanwar’s main rivals are Prem Kumar Thakur of the BJP and Aniruddha Singh of the Congress. In sharp contrast to their feudal style and image, however, Tanwar has a distinct image --- that of a people’s man --- which appeared to be giving him a clear lead over his rivals. On November 4, 25,459 voters (61.230 per cent) cast their votes here, and it appeared that the BJP’s nominee had been relegated to the background. But it is also clear that the Congress candidate was not getting any cooperation from the former chief minister and top Congress leader, Virbhadra Singh, who was guiding the party’s poll campaign in the state. The reason was that Singh, who contested from Shimla Rural, wanted that her wife must be the Congress candidate in Kasumpti. His anger because of denial of Congress ticket to his wife, and the fact that his sister-in-law was contesting as an independent candidate, made the position of the Congress candidate quite tenuous. It would therefore be no surprise if the people of Kasumpti send a different kind of candidate to the assembly.