Funds from Masses & Work for Masses
V Srinivasa Rao
THE experience of the Party state committees of Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Telangana in raising funds from the masses in the run up to the 21st Congress has been very rich and inspiring. These fund collection drives were conducted in
About 3,000 workers and activists from all districts of Telangana participated in the drive in
Preparatory workshops were held and comrades were trained on the methods and aspects of approaching people, the mode of taking up political discussions and convincing them for donating money. Substantial efforts were put in for preparations of campaign material and due publicity was given to aware people about the fund collection drive.
Stickers, leaflets, posters, booklets were distributed. A dress code of red T-shirt/saree, red cap, flags and tags was decided upon to have a symmetrical appearance of the comrades participating in the campaign. Vehicles with mike sets were airing pre-recorded audio on the fund collection drive. All the towns and villages were categorised into zones and senior leaders were assigned with the responsibility of different zones. Teams were formed with local and outstation comrades.
The drives started around 7 in the morning with focus on door-to-door campaign in residential areas in mornings and evenings, while touching upon the commercial areas in the same locality during afternoons. Workers camped in their target localities and arrangements for food and rest were done in the camps itself. Comrades could take rest for only 6-7 hours and group leaders did not have rest beyond four hours. Team reviews and zonal reviews were conducted every day after the drive. After the reviews, necessary directions for course correction were suggested based on the days' experience. The money raised was deposited with the Party headquarters everyday.
For various reasons, 20-30 percent of the households were found locked when our comrades visited the houses. This writer has personally come across a good number of households that were unoccupied in
Artisans, construction workers, auto drivers, rickshaw pullers, hawkers have responded very favourably. Government middle-class employees, minorities and social groups like Dalits also responded favourably. Our interventions in the unorganised and social sectors reflected during this campaign. When they did not have money they borrowed money from neighbours and donated. There were instances when people gave whatever money they had in their pockets and called our comrades later and donated more money. There were certain incidents which inspired and boosted the morale of the cadre. Pensioners and senior citizens have invited our teams into the houses offered tea/buttermilk and discussed politics while donating money. Amongst whom there were individuals such as a Deputy Collector, an NGO leader, headmaster who came out in open and expressed their solidarity and wanted us to be in contact with them and promised to take up activities in those areas. We could get contacts of many Left sympathisers with whom otherwise we did not have any contact. Many of them were hailing our approach to dissociate with bourgeoisie parties in elections. Our approach towards communalism was appreciated by many, especially minorities. In comparison to the traditional middle-class, the response among the new middle class was significantly low.
In most of the households only women were available at home. While donating, the gender aspect was reflected clearly. Women in poor areas such as slums and women who were working from home (domestic professions) donated money immediately, whatever amounts they could, without hesitating. Middle class women particularly housewives have said that husbands were not at home. When requested to donate money from their kitchen expenditure, a significant number of them have said they would take money from their husbands on a daily basis. Even amongst those who had money with them have blatantly refused to give money without the permission of their husbands. When knocked at the doors, people opened the doors only when they saw elderly people and were hesitant to open the doors if they saw young people.
Those under the age of 30 were antagonistic to politics and political parties. There is a trend of looking at CPI(M) to be one amongst other political parties. There were good number of people who have said we don't know politics and we will not donate. They asked about what our Party has done. At the same time, they were against the political evils in the society such as corruption, violating the assurances given by the parties during elections, political leaders leading a lavish life. They were surprised to see our comrades walking around and moving in the streets and seeking donations. They responded favourably when they were explained how we are a different party, when our comrades mentioned the instances when we refused to take money from the corporate houses, etc. In some places, girl students have donated from their pocket money after they were convinced. We met a good number of students who were working with NGOs on social causes. In one household, despite resistence from her grandparents, a B-Tech final year girl donated Rs 100 stating that she would donate money for good causes. Antagonism towards social and political evils and aspiration for new politics and good governance amongst youths should be viewed as change in their attitude. Amongst those who were in their youth at the time of the collapse of the
This campaign has served as a practical school to the comrades to understand different issues, arguments of the people, how to convince them and win over them. Approaching nine lakh households in
This entire campaign has not only helped raise funds but also greatly served as a means to introduce the Party and our views to newer sections of the populace. Besides, it helped us in identifying people who came forward to work in our Party. Party workers could notice multiple local issues faced by the people in residential areas. Barring
There was visible differentiation amongst the cadre on their capacities, capabilities, stamina and resilience. Particularly women have participated with determination, overcoming their domestic issues and responsibilities. Even in those instances where individuals behaved rudely our comrades maintained their composure and avoided conflict. There was an instance when our comrades were consistently pleading for funds, they were warned of letting out pet dogs by the house owner. A good number of our comrades have communicated and convinced people in common man's language. However, there were some who spoke in our conventional vocabulary which is not understood by many of the donors.
The drive was carried out just 8-9 months after the general elections. The illusions amongst the people about Modi, KCR and Chandrababu Naidu were not visible to that extent anymore. Failure to fulfil promises and increase of burdens on the people have become topics of discussion. In some areas, those who had voted for BJP, TRS and TDP in previous elections expressed their disappointment. This was a favourable situation for us to go to people seeking funds. The campaign has increased the consciousness of raising money from and amongst the people for whom we are working for. This also helped in increasing the awareness amongst the people to donate money to parties who are working for them. Though mass fund collection drive is widely taken up such as in Kerala, this has been an inspiring experience for the party in Telangana and AP. In AP this campaign is being continued till the last week of this month in the remaining towns and villages.