November 19, 2023

AP: Praja Rakshanabheri Campaign: Reaching People and Explaining Alternative Political Policies

B Tulasi Das

THE CPI(M) Andhra Pradesh committee initiated a programme to engage with the public and explain the alternative political policies and Party's political stance. This two-month-long programme encompassed a two-day state-level seminar, held on October 7-8, participated by delegates from different districts. Seminars on 23 distinct issues were held at key centres and district headquarters across the state. On October 16, the Party's state committee convened to finalise the programme details, including jatha routes and mobilisation for the rally. A huge rally and public meeting was held in Vijayawada on November 15, preceded by three bus jathas originating from different locations, traversing the entire state.

Two jathas commenced on October 30, with the other starting on November 2, concluding on November 8,9, 10 respectively. Over the course of twelve days, these jathas extensively covered all 26 districts, reached 120 out of 175 assembly constituencies, and spanned 250 out of 685 mandals in the state. Encompassing approximately 3,500 km, these journeys featured 150 meetings, drawing an audience of over one lakh people who listened to the leaders.

Cultural troops preceded the jatha vehicles, capturing the people's attention in advance. Specially crafted songs and cultural performances, exclusively prepared for this campaign by the cultural front, played a crucial role. In particular, songs and street plays performed in local tribal languages significantly contributed to the success of the adivasi area jatha. The comrades of the cultural front have decided to expand and fortify these efforts in the days to come.

The jathas received warm welcome from the public, and garnered appreciation on the political line taken by the Party. This campaign exposed the detrimental actions of the central government led by the BJP, adversely affecting the interests of Andhra Pradesh. The speakers' appeals to the ruling YSRCP, opposition TDP, and Janasena parties prompted followers of these regional parties to contemplate their positions. The speakers highlighted the policies and welfare measures implemented by the LDF government in Kerala, including bonus payments for paddy farmers, the considerate treatment of migrant workers as guest workers, and the adoption of a school-based hybrid teaching system. They explained how these initiatives exemplify model governance in the present era.

The speakers extensively addressed numerous issues faced by the people, ranging from price hikes to drought conditions, electricity reforms, and unemployment. The public responded, expressing opposition to the central government, particularly on the exorbitant prices of petroleum products and the denial of special category status to the state. Additionally, criticism was directed towards the central government for failing to fulfill assurances made during the bifurcation of united Andhra Pradesh.

The YSRCP's alignment with the BJP, leading to power tariff hikes, the imposition of user charges on debris, the implementation of the controversial National Education Policy, and the closure of numerous schools, was thoroughly exposed. The detailed explanation of the Modi and Jagan governments' decision to hand over the east coast to the Adani group shed light on corporate exploitation. The opportunistic stances of the TDP and Janasena were also laid bare.

The People's Manifesto (Praja Pranalika) featuring 31 key issues was widely promoted throughout the campaign. This comprehensive agenda included calls for domestic power supply at one rupee per unit, the provision of 10 kg of free rice, a gas cylinder priced at Rs 400, the strengthening of MGNREGA with its extension into urban areas, and the equitable distribution of land. Additionally, it promised  the implementation of women's reservation from the 2024 general elections, reservations in the private sector, and the allocation of 75 per cent of jobs in industries to local youth.

The manifesto pressed for remunerative prices for farmers, the repeal of labour codes, and emphasised that rehabilitation and resettlement measures must precede the continuation of the Polavaram national project construction works. Other crucial demands included the grant of Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh, the fulfillment of promises made during the state bifurcation, and the safeguarding of the Vizag Steel Plant in the public sector.

The people presented numerous representations to the jatha leadership concerning longstanding local issues. These ranged from the construction of check dams to the neglected repairs of roads and opposition to the closure of schools in their villages. Various mass organisations representing scheme workers, unorganised workers, teachers, and employees appealed to the CPI(M) to strengthen and support the struggles for job protection, the restoration of the Old Pension Scheme, and resistance against the vendetta of local political leaders.

During their journey, all three jathas made stops at memorials of national leaders and martyrs, where they paid respects by garlanding statues. The leaders also visited drought-affected agricultural fields, incomplete premises of the central tribal university, coffee plantations, etc., actively engaging with the problems faced by local people.