Vol. XLIII No. 12 March 24, 2019
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16th Lok Sabha Elections

CPI(M) ON CAMPAIGN TRAIL

The following are some of the election campaign reports we have received from various parts of the country as we go to press. DARJEELING, WEST BENGAL HIS home is within 3 kilometres of Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supremo, Bimal Gurung’s house. The Morcha has absolute sway over the tea garden he works at. One day’s absence from work means a salary cut of 90 rupees. The Singtom Tea Garden, spreading over the slope is picture perfect. A worker of the tea garden, Suman BK Malik, has forfeited the day’s wages to reach Chowkbazar in Darjeeling. The red flags are still being put up in Chowkbazar when he arrives. With tourists flocking the busy road, Suman is saying, “The owner doesn’t give us a place to stay, no benefits of any kind. We live in hardship. My home is in shambles..... I told them at home that I’m coming to Chowkbazar. The moment I return I’ll be trapped in my troubles. A meeting under the red flag lifts my spirits.” The spirit of the gathering this day also inspired people from other cities. CPI(M) Polit Bureau Member, Sitaram Yechury, addressing a meeting on April 12, captured their spirit accurately – “The red flag is asking you to vote for the people of Darjeeling, not just for Saman Pathak. How many times will parties like the Trinamool, the Morcha, and the BJP play with your sentiments? We have never hidden our stand. The 22 demands we have placed for Darjeeling have been clearly stated.” He asked why BJP and TMC opposed the proposal, by the previous Left Front government, for the inclusion of Darjeeling under the special category states like the seven North-Eastern states. He said that the Left Front has demanded Sixth Schedule status of the Indian Constitution for the Darjeeling hill area, to give them more autonomy. However, BJP and TMC have always opposed it. Both of them are more interested in flaming the fire of identity politics. He added that both the TMC and the BJP are playing identity politics (sometimes overtly and other times covertly) at the expense of the sentiments and emotions of the hill people. None of them is concerned about their crisis and are not paying heed to their unfulfilled demands. TMC is trying to disunify the hill communities into different groups. Ashok Bhattacharya, former minister and CPI (M) State Committee leader, deplored the exploitation of community identities by the BJP and the TMC. He said that only the Left is emphasising the real issues of Darjeeling: the crisis of tea workers, the long neglected demand for giving residential pattas to the Cinchona tea garden workers etc. He also said that the other important industry of Darjeeling- tourism- has been acutely hit by the turmoil of recent years. In the last 34 months of TMC rule, tourists have been able to enter the district safely for just four months. This has caused huge losses to the people of the area and they are teething with rage. Saman Pathak, the Left Front candidate from Darjeeling, reported a positive reaction to his campaign. He said that the Trinamool Congress has been branded a “traitor” by the hill people. SIKAR, RAJASTHAN ON April 14, thousands of CPI(M) cadres and supporters took out a militant procession in Sikar town of Rajasthan, in support of Amra Ram, the party’s candidate there for Lok Sabha. The procession started at about 2.30 p m from Kishan Singh Dhaka Bhavan where the CPI(M) cadres and supporters had gathered in large numbers. While the candidate Amra Ram, CPI(M) state secretary Vasudeo Sharma, Pema Ram, Usman Khan and Qayyum Quraishi moved in an open jeep, a disciplined multitude of cadres and supporters followed the jeep, raising slogans to the effect that “our brother Amra Ram would definitely enter the Lok Sabha” and that “we would definitely win our struggle for a medical college in Sikar.” Moving through the Kalyan Circle, Jatia Bazaar, Salasar Stand, Fatehpuri Gate, Tabela Market and Bajaj Road, the procession reached the district office of the CPI(M). Everywhere en route, a large number of shopkeepers and common people came forward to greet and garland the CPI(M) candidate, a well known and much loved figure in the area, and assured him of their vote and support. On Eidgaah Road, Syed Yousuf Ali, district president of the NCP, and Wahid Chauhan, NCP candidate in the November 2013 assembly polls, garlanded the CPI(M) candidate and extended him support. In the meantime, in an important development, a meeting of the Sikar Progressive Forum has decided that the minorities would cast their vote in favour of the CPI(M). At a meeting in the CPI(M) office later, the election committee gave final shape to the poll preparations and to the ways to mobilise voters on the polling day. MANDI, HIMACHAL PRADESH THE CPI(M) candidate for the Mandi Lok Sabha seat, Kushal Bharadwaj filed his nomination papers on April 12. A big procession was taken out in the town on the occasion in which thousands of workers and supporters of the Party participated. A large contingent of women and youth took part in the procession.   Folk music artists were at the lead in the colourful procession, which converged into a meeting at Seri Manch. Presided over by CPI(M) state Secretary Rakesh Singha the meeting was addressed by Haryana state secretary Inderjit Singh, CPI leader Desh Raj Sharma, besides Kushal Bharadwaj and others.   Inderjit Singh blamed the policies pursued by the UPA government and the previous NDA government for the rising prices, unemployment and corruption. He said that while the Congress was fast loosing ground, the vaccuum thus created was sought to be captured by the communal BJP, which was being patronised by the corporate houses.   Inderjit said that it is only the Left that can provide a real alternative and reverse the disastrous policies advocated by the Congress and the BJP. CHICKABALLAPUR & MANGALORE, KARNATAKA ADDRESSING a massive election rally of the CPI(M) Lok Sabha candidate from Chickaballapur in Karnataka, over the phone on April 11, CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat urged the voters of the constituency to vote for the CPI(M) candidate G V Sreerama Reddy. He said that the Janata Dal (S) candidate Kumaraswamy was unreliable as he had earlier allied with the BJP. CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, A K Padmanabhan, addressing the large gathering said that one of the factors that has played a big role in rising prices is the periodic increase in the prices of petroleum products. Though it was as part of the overall policy direction of the UPA government, the role of the petroleum minister cannot be ignored. He was alluding to Veerappa Moily, who is seeking re-election from the   constituency. Padmanabhan accused Moily for favouring the Reliance and other corporate houses. Due to this, he said, Moily could not find time to attend to his constituency and address issues like chronic water crisis in the area. CPI(M) state secretary and candidate G V Sreerama Reddy sought an explanation from Deve Gowda for his failure to address this problem during his tenure as prime minister. He did not spare Moily either, whom he accused of not fulfilling his  promise of providing water to the region. “Five years have proven too short for Moily to do anything for the people of Chikkaballpur” Reddy said. A Kannada version of the 11 central booklets and a booklet on the scandals of Moily was also released at the rally. Prior to the public meeting over ten thousand people participated in a procession that started from the APMC yard. Despite heavy rain in the midst of the meeting, people stayed put and did not leave the venue, covering their heads with plastic chairs or whatever they could lay their hands on. After the inauguration of the campaign three weeks ago, the town of Chickaballapura was once again painted red.        The CPI(M) is carrying out an extensive campaign in the constituency with road-shows, stop-over meetings, and intensive door-to-door visits.  The bourgeois press, which did not acknowledge the presence of CPI(M) in the electoral contest in the initial days, has been forced to admit that the Party candidate is fast becoming a force to reckon with. This has even rattled the BJP which has started threatening and attacking CPI(M) workers. A party vehicle was damaged in an attack in a village in the constituency. The election campaign of Yadava Shetty, CPI(M) candidate for Dakshina Kannada Lok Sabha constituency in Karnataka has picked up momentum, after the visit of CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat on April 8, when she addressed a public meeting at Mangalore. As the election date nears, the focus has shifted to door-to-door campaign, vehicle jaths, street corner meetings etc. The door-to-door campaign in Mangalore city and around which has a huge concentration of population has elicited a good response. A large number of people participated in the vehicle jathas that were taken out in Sulia, Puttur and Moodabidri. The road shows around Vitla, Tokkottu and Kaikamba were accorded a warm welcome by the people. The parents of Sowjanya, a 17 year-old girl who was victim of rape-murder have issued a separate appeal in support of the CPI(M) candidate. It was due to the efforts of the Party’s local unit that the government was pressuried to hand over the case to the CBI. Jhabua-Ratlam, MP CPI(M)'s campaign in Jhabua-Ratlam Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh is gaining momentum and support with different sections of the people joining the campaign. Party cadres are conducting street corner meetings in urban and rural centres of the district. Activists and supporters are explaining issues to the voters and exposing BJP and Congress's misdeeds and false promises. Party candidate Lata Bhabore alongwith her supporters is personally meeting voters during her door to door visits in Ranapur and Meghnagar. In Jhabua city, Party's Mau unit secretary Arun Chauhan led the campaign. CITU state secretary addressed election meeting in favour of Lata Bhabore. In Sailana, general secretary of the MP unit of the All India Kisan Sabha, Ram Narayan Kurariya addressed street corner meetings and said that Congress led government at the Centre and BJP led state government, are squarely responsible for the hardships faced by the poor and downtrodden. He urged upon the voters that to defeat the communal and corrupt BJP and Congress. He appealed to them to cast their votes in favour of CPI(M) candidate and strengthen Left in parliament. PUNJAB ON April 14, the Punjab state committee of the CPI(M) released a set of nine booklets in Punjabi; these are focussed on various issues and subjects elaborated in the party’s election manifesto. CPI(M) state secretary Charan Singh Virdi released the booklets along with the CPI(M)’s Punjab state secretariat member Ranbir Singh Virk and its Haryana state secretary Inderjit Singh. The booklets are on the following subjects: (1) the two-India reality; (2) how to build a corruption free India; (3) against the caste system, for equity and dignity for dalits; (4) in defence of women’s rights; (5) for an alternative food security and price control policy; (6) on the so-called Gujarat model; (7) on the need to defeat the BJP and defend secularism; (8) on the agrarian crisis and in defence of peasants and agricultural workers; and (9) on the education and health services. While releasing the booklets, Virdi said the CPI(M) would be campaigning in Punjab for the 16th Lok Sabha elections on the basis of the issues highlighted in these booklets. In this regard, the CPI(M) is fundamentally different fro the Congress as well as the Akali-BJP combine who are indulging in personal accusations to divert the public attention from the real issues. Virdi further stated that there was very good response from the people to the CPI(M)’s pro-people approach to the various burning issues facing the people. He strongly criticised the anti-people politics and policies of both the Congress and the Akali-BJP combine. He straight forward accused these parties of sheer opportunism and misleading the people on vital issues like price rise, unemployment, commercialisation of education and health services, drug addiction, deepening agrarian crisis as a result of the neo-liberal policies being pursued by these parties, adding that these very policies pursued by the Congress and BJP governments were responsible for the present crisis confronting the nation. While speaking on the occasion, Inderjit Singh, a member of the CPI(M) Central Committee, said that the Left parties would strive to form a secular government after the elections which could open up the possibility of implementing alternative policies in favour of the toiling people and deprived sections of the nation. Charan Singh Virdi, secretary of the Punjab state committee of the CPI(M), took to task the Congress, Akali and BJP leadership in Punjab for raking up an unnecessary controversy about the Operation Blue Star and diverting attention of the people from the real issues confronting them. Virdi said the Congress and the Akali-BJP combine are blaming each other for the entry of troops into the Golden Temple complex in June 1984 to flush out the terrorists holed up there. He observed that Operation Blue Star was an unfortunate happening which deeply hurt the sentiments of the Sikh masses. He said the imperialist supported Khalistani terrorists could have been isolated if only the then central government had offered a political solution to the problems in Punjab and if the Akali leadership had clearly demarcated itself from the fundamentalists and Khalistani terrorists. If this had been done, the situation leading to Operation Blue Star would not have arisen at all and any precipitate action could have been avoided. The CPI(M) leader placed the responsibility for this unfortunate incident on the shoulders of the centre ruled by the Congress party and on the then Akali leadership including Parkash Singh Badal. Virdi strongly felt that if the truth has to be brought out in the public domain, a commission headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court should be constituted. The commission should be mandated to submit its report in a time bound manner.