MAHARASHTRA: CPI(M) Regains Dahanu, Loses Kalwan Narrowly, Polls Over Two Lakh Votes
COMING within just five months of the Lok Sabha elections, the Vidhan Sabha elections in Maharashtra in October 2019 saw the BJP and its ally the Shiv Sena suffering a setback as a result of the growing discontent of the people with its five year regime. The election results in both Maharashtra and Haryana show that the worsening economic crisis, rising unemployment and grave agrarian distress are beginning to have an adverse impact on the BJP’s performance.
In Maharashtra, before the polls, the BJP-Shiv Sena communal combine was boasting from the housetops that this time it would cross the 220 mark out of 288 seats. They actually came down to 161, as against 185 that they had won last time. They were cut down by 24 seats and have a slim majority of only 16 in the new assembly. In the 2014 assembly elections, the BJP had won 122 seats (now down to 105) and the Shiv Sena had won 63 seats (now down to 56). Their vote percentage also fell - BJP from 27.8 to 25.8 and Shiv Sena from 19.3 to 16.4. Now an extremely bitter tussle is going on between them for a share in power.
On the other hand, the NCP (54 seats now as against 41 last time) and Congress (44 seats now as against 42 last time) increased their seats by 15 to 98 from 83 in 2014. However, their voting percentage fell – NCP from 17.2 to 16.7 and Congress from 18.0 to 15.9. The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) led by Prakash Ambedkar could not win a single seat, but by splitting the secular vote, it helped the BJP-Sena to win around 25 seats. The vote percentage of the VBA fell from 7.6 per cent in the last Lok Sabha polls to 4.6 per cent in the Vidhan Sabha polls. The VBA-MIM alliance had similarly helped the BJP-SS to win at least 8-10 seats in the last Lok Sabha elections. The MIM which this time fought separately, won two seats, but helped the BJP-Sena to win in nine seats. Many analysts claim that had it not been for both of them, the BJP and Shiv Sena could have been defeated. This picture shows the actual setback suffered by the communal combine.
We shall analyse the Maharashtra assembly election results separately in a later piece in these columns. Here we shall briefly look at the CPI(M) performance in these elections.
The CPI(M) this time polled 2,04,933 votes in the eight seats that it contested. In 2014, it had contested 20 seats and had polled 2,07,933 votes. In the negotiations that the Left and secular parties had with the NCP-Congress alliance, the Dahanu (ST) and Nashik city west seats were left to the CPI(M). But the NCP betrayed in Nashik city west and put up its own candidate. The VBA supported the CPI(M) in only two seats – Nashik city west and Shahada (ST) – but put up its candidates against us in most of the other seats, including in Solapur city central, where the CPI(M) had supported and worked for Prakash Ambedkar in the last Lok Sabha elections.
In 2014, CPI(M) Central Committee member and AIKS Kisan Long March leader J P Gavit had won the Kalwan (ST) seat in Nashik district for the seventh time since 1978 (before delimitation in 2009 it was Surgana), with two earlier losses in 1995 and 2009. This time, although he garnered an impressive 80,281 votes, he lost to the NCP by 6,596 votes, the NCP candidate getting 86,877 votes and the Shiv Sena candidate ending up as a poor third with 23,052 votes. The picture in the Kalwan assembly segment in the May 2019 Lok Sabha polls was as follows: BJP – 65,545; NCP – 60,180; CPI(M) – 58,227. From this it is clear that although the CPI(M) vote rose sharply by more than 22,000, the BJP transferred a big chunk of its votes from its alliance partner Shiv Sena to the NCP to ensure the defeat of the CPI(M). Just see the vast difference between BJP’s LS vote – 65,545 and SS’s VS vote – 23,052! However, some errors in political judgement of the district leadership also contributed to this defeat.
In the Nashik city west seat, D L Karad received 22,657 votes, as against 16,870 votes in 2014, an increase of around 6,000 votes. He was in the fourth position behind the BJP, NCP and the MNS. Here, the NCP had clearly agreed to leave this seat to the CPI(M) in the last round of negotiations, but it went back on its word and put up its candidate at the last minute. The VBA supported the CPI(M) in this seat but its support does not seem to have had the desired impact.
In the Solapur city central seat, Narasayya Adam received 10,505 votes, as against 13,924 votes in 2014, a further drop of over 3,000 votes. He stood fifth behind the Congress, MIM, an SS rebel and the SS. He had won this seat three times earlier in 1978, 1995 and 2004. While communal polarisation was certainly an important factor, the state and district committee will have to seriously review our performance in this seat.
A good performance was registered in the Shahapur (ST) seat in Thane district, where Krushna Bhawar was our young candidate. He received 10,361 votes and stood third behind the NCP and the Shiv Sena. Here the Party had got only 3,553 votes in 2014, making it a straight threefold increase this time. Here the constant struggles by our young teams in Shahapur and Wada tehsils, with the help of comrades in the Thane city area, contributed to our advance. A 10,000-strong rally by the CPI(M) on burning people’s issues was held in Shahapur on September 9, just a month and a half before the elections. This gave a boost to the campaign.
In the other three seats that we contested, our performance was not satisfactory. In Shahada (ST) in Nandurbar district, Jaising Mali received 4,060 votes, as against 2,893 in 2014. Here also VBA support does not seem to have had much impact. In Andheri West in Mumbai, K Narayanan received 2,772 votes, as against 2,138 votes in 2014. In Partur in Jalna district, the only woman candidate Sarita Khandare received 2,183 votes, as against 2,106 votes in 2014.
IMPRESSIVE VICTORY IN DAHANU
The Dahanu (ST) seat in Palghar district (earlier Thane district before its bifurcation in 2014) has been one of the bastions of the CPI(M) ever since the famed Warli Adivasi Revolt led in the mid-1940s by legendary CPI(M) and AIKS leaders Comrades Shamrao Parulekar and Godavari Parulekar. (Warli is not the name of a place, but the name of an Adivasi tribe which is predominant in this district.)
The CPI(M) has now won the Dahanu seat (before delimitation in 2009 it was Jawhar) in nine out of the ten assembly elections held since 1978. It was lost only once in 2014, due to inner-Party dissensions. With a lot of sustained collective efforts to restore unity, the reunified Party worked as one to regain the Dahanu seat in 2019, amidst a frenzy of joy and celebrations.
Another speciality of the CPI(M) in Thane-Palghar district that must be underlined is that since 1978, it has put up five different candidates for the state assembly, all of whom have won the seat. This is a result of the constant stress laid by the Parulekars and carried forward by later generations of the leadership that the Party is always more important than the candidate.
The new MLA elected from Dahanu is 43-year old Vinod Bhiva Nikole, who hails from a poor peasant adivasi family in Dahanu tehsil. He is a state committee member of the CPI(M), secretary of the CITU Thane-Palghar district committee and one of the state secretaries of the Maharashtra CITU. He has been a Party whole timer for the last 15 years since 2005. He was a member of the DYFI state committee till earlier this year, when he was relieved in its state conference. He was among the 40,000 farmers who walked the entire stretch of nearly 200 Km in the Kisan Long March led by the AIKS from Nashik to Mumbai in March 2018.
Vinod Nikole is now in the limelight of the print and electronic media all over Maharashtra because he is the poorest among all the MLAs in the new state assembly. With assets worth only Rs 51,082 and no house of his own, the media wonders how he could have won, defeating the sitting BJP MLA by 4,707 votes. Vinod received 72,114 votes and the BJP got 67,407 votes. All other parties and independents were sidelined. He tells the media that he won because of the hard work put in by innumerable activists of the CPI(M) and other friendly parties.
In this seat, the NCP, the Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA), Congress and Kashtakari Sanghatana all supported the CPI(M) sincerely and to the hilt. The CPI(M) had been at loggerheads with most of these parties for the last several decades in the district. The differences of the CPI(M) with the Kashtakari Sanghatana lasted for five decades, even leading to bitter physical clashes on many occasions. But it was the joint struggles under the banner of the Bhoomi Adhikar Andolan (BAA) against the proposed Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet Train and the Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway that brought them together. On September 28, 2019, the birth anniversary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the first joint convention in 50 years of the CPI(M) and the Kashtakari Sanghatana was held at the Veti Varoti village in Dahanu tehsil. Here the Kashtakari Sanghatana, for the first time, declared its full support to the CPI(M) in this election.
The above broad unity of secular political forces against the BJP-SS was actually built up during the last Lok Sabha elections, when all of them actively supported the BVA candidate. This time around, all the above parties and organisations helped one another in all the six assembly seats in Palghar district, defeating the BJP-Shiv Sena combine in five of them.
Needless to say, this victory was the result of large sustained struggles by tens of thousands of people on burning issues, led independently by the CPI(M) and mass fronts like the AIKS, CITU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI in Dahanu and Talasari tehsils, which make up this constituency, and in Thane and Palghar districts as a whole. Space does not permit a listing of these struggles.
The election campaign actually began on August 14, 2019, the birth anniversary of Godavari Parulekar, with a district-level Party workshop in Talasari. This was followed by election meetings in almost all villages throughout the constituency in September.
As mentioned above, the front of the above friendly parties has won five of the six assembly seats in Palghar district, as follows: BVA – 3, NCP – 1, CPI(M) – 1. Only one seat went to the Shiv Sena, but the district has been cleared of the BJP which had two seats from here in the last state assembly. Zilla parishad and panchayat samiti elections in Palghar district are due in another two months, in January 2020. The front will make all efforts to fight them unitedly, to deal another convincing blow to the BJP and the Shiv Sena.