Monday, March 30, 2009

CPI (M) Marches Ahead in Rajasthan

Comrade Nilotpal Basu, Central Secretariat Member of the CPI (M) who was recently in Rajasthan attending organizational meetings in preparations for the election campaign writes on the party’s struggles, experiences and challenges in the present campaign.

Rajasthan is a state, which has long been long associated with its royal traditions and overwhelming feudal influences. Feudal forces had an undisputed sway over the political process. And the electoral fortunes swung like a pendulum between the Congress and the BJP.

The BJP, in spite of the ups and downs in its political fortune, retains some capacity to independently win assembly and parliament seats, in this state. Why is it so? The Congress, as a party, has never been interested to launch an all out battle against the entrenched feudal stranglehold which would have resulted in the break up of the tradition of political mobilization on caste grounds. Neither was the Congress interested in taking on the medieval social and cultural attitudes through any meaningful reform process that would fundamentally deny space for political Hindutva and its obnoxious `cultural nationalism'.

The situation today is slowly changing. In the last few years, the CPI (M) has taken sure strides towards developing people's struggles. Particularly the CPI (M) and several democratic organizations have stepped up their initiative on issues and challenges facing the downtrodden sections particularly those of the peasantry.

In the past, the CPI (M) had taken up mass issues and their leaders had gained respectability and were seen as uncompromising fighters in the cause of the people. But in those days, this image of the Party and its leadership could not get consolidated on a firm and sustainable basis. In fact, there was a time when the CPI (M) managed to win solitary seats in the Rajasthan assembly, but invariably those seats would be wrested by the Congress or the BJP in the subsequent election. This scenario changed in the last decade or so when Amra Ram, now a CPI (M) Central Committee member, won the Dhond seat in the Sikar district of the Shekhawati region of the state. And, then through the struggles of the Party outside and his interventions inside Assembly, the people saw the need for rallying behind the Party and the Kisan Sabha in not only Dhond but other areas of Sikar district. Amra Ram managed to retain the seat for three consecutive terms.

Dhond became the seed of a new movement towards the Red Flag. And, the people’s struggle advanced remarkably during the last five years. It was the BJP, which was at the helm of affairs with Vasundhara Raje government in office. First came the struggle on electricity tariff. The Vasundhara government had raised the power tariff for the farmers steeply. The Kisan Sabha and the CPI (M) organized the united protest of the peasantry. A new form for struggle where thousands of peasants descended on Jaipur and would lay siege in what was called a `padav'. The peasants refused to budge unless their demands would be met. It is the resoluteness of the struggle, which resulted in the Vasundhara government to rescind the tariff hike order. And, this triggered a wave of self-confidence and a sense of achievement among the peasants in the Sikar and adjoining areas.

This experience, then, was replicated once again on the question of water distribution for irrigation from the Indira Gandhi Canal to farmers of Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh and Bikaner districts.

Then came the vigorous struggle for implementation of NREGA. The poor and the landless now got benefits out of the programme due to an organized intervention of the CPI (M) and gains were tangible in the form of wages and income.

The other startling change that started to shore up was the expansion of the Kisan Sabha and the Party to consolidate the gains of the struggle involving the rural poor. The contrast was so visible to people. On the one hand, the BJP led by Vasundhara was busy in enticing people from different caste groups. Starting with the Jats, she managed to create fissures among the Jats and the Gujjars and the Minas. On the other hand, whenever people protested the government was ruthless and attempted to put down protests. There were instances of at least four-dozen police firings.

These struggles, sacrifices and commensurate efforts towards building organization yielded results in the last Assembly election. In Sikar district alone, CPI (M) won two Assembly seats and lost three of them quite narrowly. Overall, the CPI (M)'s vote share was almost one-fourth of the total votes. Amra Ram who had emerged as a symbol of this new awakening defeated seven time MLA and former state Congress President in Danta Ramgarh. Similarly, in Sriganganagar, one of the leaders of the water struggle, Pawan Duggal, won Anupgarh (SC) seat with huge margin.

Now, the Lok Sabha election has opened up a new opportunity to take the struggle forward. In the last Assembly elections, in predominantly bipolar Rajasthan, BJP was defeated but Congress failed to win absolute majority. The combined vote share of BJP and Congress was only 72 per cent while 28 per cent went to the others. This provides a good starting point for the gathering of non-Congress non-BJP forces.

The CPI(M) has taken the lead in such an effort. Combining articulation of the burning problems of the people of this state with the national level policy platform of the Left, it is contesting the three seats of Sikar, Bikaner (SC) and Sriganganagar (SC) seats. The CPI in alliance will put up candidates for Udaipur and Chittong.

The campaign and the elaborate organizational preparations have started. Hannan Mollah addressed a gathering of select activists from different booth areas of the eight Assembly segments of the Sikar parliamentary constituency where Amra Ram has emerged as a front-runner.

Similarly, Nilotpal Basu addressed similar meetings for the Bikaner and the Ganganagar seats. In Bikaner, Pawan Duggal, a young leader of the water struggle who has already made his mark in the Assembly is the CPI (M) flag-bearer, has been making an impact on the electoral contest.

The Red Flag is making a determined bid to send its first representative to the Lok Sabha for the first time without the support of any other non-Left political party.

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