CPI(ML) at the Polls: A Preview
In the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, CPI(ML) is contesting 82 seats in 16 states and three Union Territories. In elections to Orissa and Andhra Pradesh Assemblies, the Party is contesting around 20 seats each. Of the 82 seats identified by the CPI(ML), 22 are reserved for SC/ST candidates. These apart, the Party will also put up dalit and adivasi or tea community candidates in a dozen general seats. Nearly 60 per cent (47 out of 80) of the party candidates will be in the Hindi-speaking states. Bihar, UP and Jharkhand will account for half of the seats being contested by the party.
Nationally, the Party election campaign will be directed primarily against both the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA. Five years ago, the UPA had come to power in the name of the aam aadmi, but its tenure will be remembered only for its reckless pursuit of pro-corporate pro-US policies that have left the country reeling under all-round economic crisis and growing vulnerability to terrorism. The CPI(ML) will therefore appeal to the electorate to give a crushing rebuff to the UPA in the coming election much like the blow delivered to the NDA in the 2004 elections. The party poll campaign will also expose and oppose non-UPA non-NDA dispensations that pursue anti-people policies and attack democracy, e.g., the CPI(M)-led regimes in West Bengal and Kerala, and the BSP in UP.
Below, Liberation surveys CPI(ML) intervention in the elections, giving you a picture of highlights of our campaign, and brief profiles of some of the constituencies and candidates.†
Campaign, Constituencies, Candidates
For the first time, the three main left parties in Bihar, namely the CPI(ML), CPI and CPI(M) have concluded a seat adjustment, and the trio will contest altogether 33 out of 40 parliamentary seats in Bihar (80% of total seats). For the rest 7 seats, support may be extended to a non-NDA, non-UPA progressive candidate from any such seat, but that will be decided upon by the mutual consent among the three left parties. Among these 33 seats, CPI(ML) is contesting from 20 seats, CPI and CPI(M) from 8 and 5 seats respectively.
With Congress opting out of the UPA in Bihar; RJD rebels like Sadhu Yadav joining Congress and even JD(U) or BJP; and some JD(U) stalwarts set to join RJD or Congress, there is much discord, dissidence and disarray in the UPA and NDA camps. In contrast, the unity and consolidation among Left forces is receiving an enthusiastic response among Left ranks and the people of Bihar.¬†
This is for the first time that the CPI(ML) is contesting from nearly all the zones of Bihar. In the north-west, the Party is contesting from Valmiki Nagar, Siwan, Gopalganj and Maharajganj; in the Mithilanchal it is contesting from Darbhanga, Jhanjharpur, Samastipur and Muzaffarpur while CPI is contesting Madhubani; in the north-west it is contesting from the Kosi-ravaged districts of Araria, Purnea and Katihar, where CPI(M) is contesting Supaul and CPI Madhepura; and in its main base of south Bihar it is contesting from Ara, Buxar, Sasaram, Karakat, Pataliputra, Patna Sahib, Jahanabad, Gaya and Nalanda, with CPI(M) contesting Nawada.
In Valmiki Nagar constituency of West Champaran district, where feudal landed Estates still hold social and political sway, our candidate is Virendra Gupta, a crusader against this nexus. CPI and CPI(M) are contesting from one seat each here ‚Äď Motihari and West Champaran respectively.¬†¬†¬†¬†
The Siwan-Gopalganj-Maharajganj belt (erstwhile Saran) has an area of criminal-mafia domination. If in Maharajganj it was Prabhunath Singh and in Gopalganj it was Sadhu Yadav, in Siwan it was notorious Shahabuddin, responsible for the murder of CPI(ML) student leader Chandrashekhar and now convicted for abduction and killing of another CPI(ML) activist. The CPI(ML) has been the sole voice against such criminalization of politics, and has paid a heavy cost for it. Thanks to our credibility on this count, our candidate Amarnath Yadav, a very popular three-time legislator from the Darauli Vidhan Sabha seat in Siwan, had once been able to poll more than 2,55,000 votes in the parliamentary election against Shahabuddin.¬†¬†
In the nearby Gopalganj too, this time a reserved constituency, CPI(ML) was the only defender of secularism during a recent instance of communal tension instigated by JD(U) goons. Three-time winner of the Assembly seat from Mairwa, the Khet Mazdoor Sabha state secretary Satyadev Ram is the Party‚Äôs candidate here.
In Mithilanchal, the cradle of communist movement in Bihar, the CPI(ML) has come up as the force carrying forward the militant legacy of the communist movement of the 1940s and 50s. The region is among the poorest of Bihar, regularly affected by devastating floods forcing a great number of peasants to seasonally migrate for their livelihood. Feudal oppression and land are questions of utmost importance here, but criminal negligence in flood management is also one of the main.
For the first time we are making our presence felt in the north eastern part of the state. This part is also one of the poorest in the state and here too large estates abound. Martyr Comrade Brajesh Mohan Thakur was the people‚Äôs hero who initiated the second phase of Party work here. On the strength of our rapid expansion of AIALA and struggles among landless labourers, relief and rehabilitation work following the Kosi deluge, and also spirited mobilization of flood-affected people in their movement against administrative and political callousness, we are getting a warm response from the poor and also from minorities. We are contesting for the first time from Araria and Kamli Devi, a veteran activist of the peasant and women‚Äôs movement, who played a leading role in flood-relief work, is our candidate. In Purnea, we have fielded ex-legislator Madhavi Sarkar, wife of martyr Comrade Ajit Sarkar, firebrand MLA of CPI(M). And in Katihar, three-time winner and extremely popular legislator from Barsoi Assembly segment, Mahboob Alam, who has recently been released after a long incarceration for 17 months, will be the party candidate against taking on the BJP and RJD rivals.¬†
In South Bihar, response to our campaigns in the run of election preparations has been highly enthusiastic. The whole belt has witnessed landless and poor peasants‚Äô vigorous campaigns against feudal domination for four decades. In the last two decades the CPI(ML) has withstood the onslaught of killer private landlord armies ‚Äď a series of massacres of dalits and rural poor ‚Äď and ultimately gained the upper hand. But the Laloo regime tacitly joined hands with and offered protection to these armies to counter the revolutionary threat, and today‚Äôs JD(U)-BJP regime came out so openly in support of these killers that it hastily dissolved Amir Das Commission itself. Arun Singh, thrice MLA from Karakat, is contesting from Ara this time. The constituency, from where we scored our maiden victory in 1989, has been reorganized to exclude Paliganj and Maner segments of Patna district and include Peero, Jagdishpur and Shahpur instead. We had scored a victory from Peero and Jgdishpur in 1990, and have put up a consistent fight there since then. Sahar and Sandesh are our well known bastions.
Karakat is a new seat, formed by reorganization of the erstwhile Bikramganj constituency. It now includes three new assembly segments from Aurangabad district (Obra, Goh and Nabinagar), out of which we have won twice from Obra. Comrade Rajaram Singh, ex-legislator from Obra and a Central Committee member of CPI(ML) is the candidate here.
In Jahanabad, state committee member Mahanand is our candidate. This constituency has sent communist MPs a good number of times and still has a powerful left mass base. The unity of the three communist parties may play a positive role here.
And Pataliputra is an altogether new constituency, formed by taking assembly segments from erstwhile Ara, Jahanabad and Patna constituencies. We had won Masaurhi in 1990 and are representing Paliganj at present. Comrade Rameshwar Prasad, our candidate from this constituency, was the first CPI(ML) MP and has been elected to Bihar Vidhan Sabha from Sandesh as well.
Another new constituency is Patna Sahib, formed by a good part of erstwhile Patna town and also including two rural constituencies of Patna district. The Party has put up Comrade Ramnarain Rai, president of Bihar State Non-Gazetted Employees Federation (Gope Faction) as its candidate. In recent times both non-gazetted as well as other employees rose in revolt against the Nitish government. With the unity among the left parties, and given the fact that nearly all the employees are under the influence of Left-led unions, who fought unitedly in the recent movement, Com. Ramnarain Rai is virtually the representative of all Bihar employees in this election.
Since the last Lok Sabha polls here, we lost Comrade Mahendra Singh to the bullets of hired assassins, while he was campaigning for re-election for the fourth successive term from Bagodar Assembly constituency (Giridih district). The Party retained the Assembly seat and our lone MLA continues to be the sole voice of Opposition against successive NDA and UPA regimes in the Assembly ‚Äď against the massive grab of land and resources through MoUs, the rampant betrayal and exploitation of the adivasi poor, issues of migration, displacement, destruction of PSUs, suicides by the starving and killing of NREGA activists (Kameshwar Yadav of the CPI(ML) as well as Lalit Mehta and others).
In the coming Lok Sabha elections, CPI(ML) will highlight the rights of rural poor and adivasis to land, forests and water resources; the breach of 5th Schedule/CNTA/SPTA ‚Äď laws intended to protect adivasis‚Äô land from being grabbed; proper implementation of NREGA/BPL etc schemes and minimum wage of Rs. 200 for agricultural labourers and unorganized workers.¬†
CPI(ML) will be contesting 2 seats ‚Äď Godda and Dumka - in the Santhal Pargana region ‚Äď an adivasi-majority region, with extensive backward agriculture with small pockets of modern coal mines. CPI(ML) will also contest Koderma in the North Chhotanagpur region ‚Äď a region that combines coal mines, big PSUs as well as agriculture and a forest economy. Koderma is mainly a rural agrarian pocket. In the South Chhotanagpur region, combining agrarian poor, hill and forest areas and developed mining, the party will contest Singhbhum (ST). CPI(ML will also contest Palamu (SC) and Chatra. Apart from contesting these 6 seats out of the 14 in Jharkhand, we will also support CPI in Hazaribagh, Marxist Coordination Committee (MCC) in Dhanbad and CPI(M) in the Ranchi seat.
Three of the six candidates are women activists. Our candidate from Chatra, Keshwar Yadav, is a former leading Maoist cadre, who joined our party after coming to a realization, through long experience, about the anarchist trend.
Kodarma LS seat comprises 4 Assembly segments of Giridih district ‚Äď Bagodar, Rajdhanwar, Jamua and Gandey ‚Äď in all of these, CPI(ML) has a consistent presence, while the Bagodar seat has been with the party for the last 4 terms (3 terms won by Comrade Mahendra Singh, and after his murder, by Comrade Vinod Singh). It also covers Koderma Assembly segment of Kodarma district and Barkattha Assembly segment comprising two blocks of Hazaribagh district and one of Koderma district. So CPI(ML) has a presence in almost all blocks of this constituency and a powerful movement and organizational presence. In the 2004 LS elections the party scored 1.36 lakh, and 90, 000 in the by-elections of November 2006 in Kodarma. Our LS candidate from Kodarma, Rajkumar Yadav, narrowly lost the Rajdhanwar seat in the last Assembly elections.
The recent struggle against land grab at Kathikund, in Dumka, was noted for the participation and leading role of women, the arrest of the woman leader, and police firing on protestors. CPI(ML) candidates from Dumka (Bitiya Manjhi) and Godda (Geeta Mandal), both AIPWA activists, had played a leading role in the protests against these incidents.
Here we are contesting a total of 12 seats, of which 6 are in the Purvanchal region, and the rest are in the Terai and Awadh regions. Our main emphasis in the Purvanchal region has been to assert the rights of agricultural labourers, adivasi poor and dalits, against the virulent communal poison of Yogi Adityanath and the Sangh-BJP, and exposing the pro-poor anti-criminal claims of the BSP and opportunism of the Samajwadi party.
From Salempur, a long-standing centre of our movement, our candidate is Sriram Chaudhury, popular leader and member of the party‚Äôs UP Standing Committee. Ghazipur is a developing area where we have recently revived and expanded our work, and our candidate here is Kisan Sabha leader Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha. We are contesting from our old centres of work ‚Äď Robertsganj (SC), Mirzapur and Chandauli. We are contesting for the first time from Gorakhpur, the epicenter of the fascist Yogi‚Äôs campaign. In the Terai constituencies of Kheri and Pilibhit, we have been a consistent force of peasant movement, mobilizing against the anti-farmer policies pursued by state and central government that are affecting sugar cane cultivators in the region. Most of our candidates are young activists.¬†
We are contesting from Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur and Tezpur ‚Äď all areas of peasant movement and struggles of tea communities against starvation conditions and severely exploitative and repressive work conditions. At Dibrugarh, Comrade Anil Barua had got substantial votes in 1991 and was killed while contesting in 1998. Apart from our work among tea garden workers, since Anil Barua‚Äôs efforts, the party has also played an active role in cultural and democratic movements. Our candidates at Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur are tea community activists ‚Äď Gangaram Kol and Debnath Manjhi. At Tezpur, where too we have led tea garden struggles, our candidate is Party Poliburo member Rubul Sarma.
From the Autonomous District (ST) constituency ‚Äď long standing centre of the CPI(ML)-led struggle for autonomous statehood, our candidate is Jayanta Rongpi, who has formerly been elected MP four times from this constituency. On 16 March, a CPI(ML) mass meeting in Karbi Anglong was fired on from the compound of the Congress party office near the meeting spot. One 60-year old woman attending the meeting, Basapi Taropi, was seriously injured in the firing. It is significant that just one day previous to this incident, the Congress had tried to hold a meeting in the same place, but failed since sot a single person turned up for the meeting. The attack was clearly conducted by the Congress in frustration against this loss of support in the area. In this region, apart from consistently raising the issue of Autonomous statehood, we have also made a mark on struggles relating to NREGA and BPL.¬†¬†¬†
We are contesting four Parliamentary seats in Orissa, where, in addition to consistent movements amongst adivasi and rural poor on issues of land, wages, and against state repression, we have also won considerable credibility through our determined mobilizations against the anti-Christian pogrom of the Sangh Parivar. We will also be contesting some 21 Assembly segments.¬†
The Koraput (ST) constituency covers many of our long-standing areas of struggle, especially among adivasis, and in recent times, a sizable section of the dalit Christian community has also come closer to the party. Our candidate here is Mehgnath Sabar ‚Äď a leading activist of our party and also a popular leader among tribals and rural poor. We are also contesting from all the Assembly segments in this Parliamentary constituency.
Kendrapada is an old Left centre, where in the past few years, many ranks from the CPI and CPI(M) have veered towards us. A former CPI(M) MLA Radhakanta Sethy, now a leading CPI(ML) activist, is now our candidate from the Kendrapara Assembly segment.¬†¬†¬†
From Puri, our Lok Sabha candidate is veteran communist leader and party State Secretary Comrade Khitish Biswal.
From Kalahandi, a spirited youth activist, formerly a students‚Äô union leader, is contesting with the agenda of changing the image of Kalahandi as a symbol of backwardness and hunger into a symbol of resistance and struggle. Here, a team of enthusiastic youth are our main campaigners.¬†¬†¬†¬†
In the 2004 elections, with our work mainly confined to coastal districts, we had contested one Parliamentary seat and 10 Assembly seats. This time, reflecting our party‚Äôs expansion to Telangana as well as Rayalaseema regions, we are contesting two Parliamentary seats and 18 Assembly seats. In Telangana we are contesting from two assembly constituencies, one each from Adilabad and Khammam districts. In Rayalaseema, we are contesting Ananthapur Parliamentary seat and three Assembly segments ‚Äď two that are part of the Ananthpur Parliamentary seat and one part of the Hindupur Parliamentary constituency.¬†
After 1968, Andhra is seeing a tough three-cornered contest in the state ‚Äď between the new Prajarajyam party formed by movie star Chiranjeevi; the Telugu Desam party, worst affected by the emergence of Prajarajyam, but getting a lease of life from backing by the CPI-CPI(M) and the tie-up with TRS; and the Congress that has been in power at the State.
In our campaign, we are raising the issues of rampant corruption ‚Äď be it in Satyam-type corporate houses or in NREGS and Jalayajnam funds ‚Äď as well as corporate land grab and SEZs, increasing violence on women, betrayal of the promise made, under pressure of woimen‚Äôs anti-arrack movements to implement prohibition, and unabated agrarian crisis and farmers‚Äô suicide ‚Äď and are appealing to people to give a fitting rebuff to the Congress. We are also reminding people that all these problems had their genesis in the TDP regime ‚Äď and today the TDP has no business to masquerade as pro-people and pro-poor.¬†
The Kakinada Parliamentary seat is one of the three constituencies in East Godavari district ‚Äď an important district in the political map of AP and also a strong centre of our peasant and agricultural labourers‚Äô movement. Comrade Bangar Rao, Central Committee member of the party, and a popular leader, is our candidate.
Ananthapur is a backward district with a record number of farmers‚Äô suicides. Comrade K Gayatri Devi, activist of the women‚Äôs movement and peasants‚Äô movement, is our candidate.
With regard to Assembly constituencies, we are fielding a youth leader from Palasa constituency on the Orissa border, which comprises the Uddanam an area, the backbone of the Srikakulam struggle. At Madugula, a new constituency where our work has expanded, a tribal leader is our candidate. In East Godavari, all our mass leaders are contesting from 6 Assembly seats. In Polavaram (ST) constituency, we are fielding one of tribal activists. In Krishna district, apart from the constituency which we have contested in the past, we are also contesting from Nuziveedu, an area where we have recently led land struggles. In Khammam District, we are contesting Aswaraopeta (ST), where we have expanded our work, raising adivasi strugglees and land issues. Another Assembly constituency we are contesting in Telangana region is Mudhol of Adilabad district, a very backward area bordering Maharashtra. Comrade Gangadhar, a popular leader of this area is our candidate. In Ananthapur district, we are contenting Rapthadu under Hindupur Parliamentary constituency, comprising areas of Maoist influence. We are also contesting Singanmala, comprising the old Putlur constituency from where veteran revolutionary leader Nagi Reddy was elected for the Assembly during the 60s. D Ramurty, formerly in CPI, and later active in the dalit movement, is our candidate.¬†¬†
Our campaign in TN is calling upon the working class and the common people to defeat the DMK-led front that betrayed its promises to the poor and to reject the AIADMK- led alliance. Implementation of through going land reform, distribution of 2 acres land for land less and 5 cents house site patta for the rural and urban poor; livelihood, security and dignity of unorganized workers; enforcement of the trade union rights of the working class especially in multinational companies and special economic zones and industrial parks will be some of the major issues to be highlighted.¬†¬†
CPI(ML) will independently contest in five constituencies ‚Äď Sriperumpudur, Vilupuram, Mayiladuthurai, Tiruchirappalli and Tirunelveli. Sriperumpudur, dubbed the ‚ÄėDetroit of Tamilnadu‚Äô, is notorious for its MNC and SEZ sweat shops. The newly created Ambattur Assembly segment comes under this constituency, where we have nearly two decades of work among the un-organized and organized working class. Here we have fielded K Bharati, a dynamic 29 year old student-youth leader, and also a state committee member of the party. At Vilupuram (SC), a very backward district with a high concentration of agricultural workers and rural poor, we have fielded M Venkatesan, a well-established Left activist. Our work here got a boost in late 2007 when, attracted by our political initiatives among the rural poor, hundreds of activists and supporters from CPI joined our party. Subsequently too, many activists and supporters from CPI, RSP and CPI(M) joined us. It being the first time a Left party is contesting in this constituency our campaign has generated much interest among the Left ranks and working class. In Myiladuthurai, where we have contested several time in the past, the candidate is N Gunasegaran, state committee member of the party and AIALA State President. Asaithambi, SCM, is the candidate in the newly created Tiruchirapalli constituency, which has a urban rural mix; three assembly segments comes from Pudukkottai district where we have a long-standing work, and the remaining three constituencies are spread over Tiruchirappalli district. In Kandarvakkottai, part of Pudukottai, apart from rural poor and agricultural labourers, we also have made inroads among poor peasantry thanks to struggle which succeeded in stalling land grab for a liquor factory. We have had more than a decade of work among unorganized beedi workers in Tirunelveli constituency, but we are contesting for the first time. T Sankarapandian, a veteran AICCTU leader is our candidate. We have a good footing among the workers here, especially among women workers.¬†
In Tamilnadu, the DMK‚Äôs credibility has been severely dented by its betrayal of its promise of 2 acres land to the landless and house sites for rural and urban poor. AIADMK enjoys the support of CPI and CPI(M) inspite of the fact that in the Assembly polls it was rejected totally by the people for pursuing anti-poor, pro-imperialist policies and for its draconian and repressive measures. CPI(ML) is striving to assert the independent voice of the working class and poor, rejecting the dual ruling class-led options.¬†¬†¬†
The main agenda of the party‚Äôs poll campaign here is to resist the communal fascism of the BJP and the anti-people policies of the Congress, and to expose and fight the opportunist JD(S) that was instrumental in bringing BJP to power in Karnataka. The party is raising the issues of banning communal outfits including Bajrang Dal and Sri Rama Sene, radical land reforms, including patta to ‚Äėbagairhukum‚Äô lands under possession of peasants, reversal of corporate orientation of agriculture, protection to poor and marginal peasants and agrarian labourers, and housing for all the homeless.¬†
CPI(ML) is contesting from Davangere, the seat now held by BJP, from where Sonia Gandhi is launching her poll campaign. Our candidate E Ramappa is party state secretary, and leaders of struggles of dalit masses and agricultural labourers. From Koppal, one of the most backward districts in Karnataka, our candidate J Bharadwaj is one of the State Leading Team members of the party and also the state president of AIALA. A senior leader who has been with the party since his student days, he was jailed under fabricated charges in Gangavati and was acquitted recently. At Chamarajanagar (SC), a new constituency with a substantial ST population, also a hotbed of the Kaveri dispute and the controversial Hogenakal dam project of Tamil Nadu, we are fielding C Javaraiah, a practicing advocate, and state secretary of AICCTU, who is working among unorganized workers and agricultural labourers. Our party work gained momentum in Karnataka after our contest in Bellary where we secured more than 12500 votes in the last parliamentary elections. After delimitation, it is now a ST constituency. It is notorious for the mining mafia‚Äôs political clout in the BJP and the Congress. Our candidate Com. Chowdappa is a newly emerging leader of the party.¬†¬†
Here, the CPI(ML) Liberation is for an independent assertion of the revolutionary Left, against the opportunism, corruption and degeneration of the ruling CPIM-led LDF, the anti-people policies of the Congress-led UDF as well as the communal fascism of the BJP. Foremost on our agenda here are radical land reforms to cover the deprived sections of dalits, adivasis, women and Muslims; annulment of 99-year lease of lands for corporate houses and immediate take over and distribution of lands to the deprived sections; reversal of policies of liberalisation followed by both UDF and LDF that has resulted in increasing inequality the decrease in Human Development Index in the state; complete reversal of policies of corporatisation of agriculture, support to small and poor peasants in cultivation in order to stop suicides and migration and scrapping of SEZs.
CPI(ML) is contesting Pathanamthitta, a constituency in central Kerala, known for ML movements¬† and the recent Chengara land struggle that exposed the fallacy and limitations of the CPI(M)-led Government‚Äôs much trumpeted Kerala land reforms. Our candidate O P Kunjupillai is one of the senior leaders of the party in Kerala and also a National Council Member of AIALA, who has been arrested and jailed many times in the course of leading struggles of the poor. We are also contesting Alathur (SC), a new constituency carved out of old Palakkad that is one of the most backward districts in Northern Kerala. Considered to be one of the strongholds of CPI(M) (Chief Minister Achuthanandan was elected from one of the assembly segments in this district), this constituency is also known for its struggle against Coca Cola at Plachimada. Our candidate K Gopalakrishnan, a construction labourer, is an emerging leader.
Here, our party‚Äôs primary agenda is to challenge the degenerated Left led by the CPI(M), to assert an alternative revolutionary Left.
CPI (ML) is fielding seven candidates for the Parliamentary elections in West Bengal ‚Äď at Bankura, Bardhaman (East), Barrackpore, Darjeeling, Hooghly, Krishanagar and Raigunj ‚Äď where the party has been able to develop a distinct identity of the revolutionary Left over the years.
The CPI(M)-led Left Front Government is facing unprecedented isolation in the wake of Singur, Nandigram , Lalgarh movements and the autonomy movements in the hills of Darjeeling and also during the ration row across the state. Fissures within the ruling Left combination is constantly widening and the Front is maintaining a fa√ßade of unity driven solely by survival instinct. To compound it all, two sitting LF MPs and one veteran CPI(M) leader have, on being denied tickets, deserted their parties.¬†¬†
The right camp led by the TMC is also consolidating itself, with the Congress high command ultimately deciding to strike a seat adjustment with the former on terms dictated by it. As soon as the sign of TMC-Congress alliance was seen to take shape, the SUCI declared that it would quit the TMC-led coalition, if the Congress is taken into the coalition. The TMC, which was all through vociferously preaching for a ‚ÄėMahajot (a grand alliance)‚Äô against the CPI (M), tried to avoid the breach by declaring only a seat adjustment with the Congress. As a face-saving exercise, the SUCI has now decided to field candidates against the Congress in 10 out of the 12 they are contesting, without breaking away from the TMC-led coalition. Similarly, the PDS, which is denied even a single seat by the TMC, has also decided to contest from the South Kolkata constituency against their coalition partner TMC. Thus ‚ÄėMahajot‚Äô has, in effect, been reduced to a Right alliance between the TMC and the Congress.
The CPI (ML) from the start maintained a principled distance from the TMC, while striving to build up a genuine and struggling Left force in the state. CPI(ML) will contest from its traditional bases of movement ‚Äď Krishnanagar, Bardhaman (East) and Raigunj, while striving to extend its frontier to the now politically sensitive areas like Hooghly, Bankura, Barrackpore and Darjeeling.
Hooghly recently shot into prominence because of Singur and our party has emerged as a vibrant Left force in the area, snatching one Panchayat Samiti seat from the hands of the CPI (M) during the last Panchayat elections. Disillusioned left ranks from the CPI(M) are constantly swelling our ranks. To initiate the election campaign, the party organized an ‚ÄėAdhikar Yatra‚ÄĚ from the earlier Nano site at Singur to Dunlop Rubber Factory, which was re-opened with much fanfare only to be closed very soon, fooling the workers in connivance with the CITU and the INTUC. Subsequently, several Panchayats run by the CPI(M) were gheraoed by the party on the demand for 100 days of work under the NREGA and other popular demands and the Panchayat offices were put under lock and key.
Bankura has a large concentration of adivasis, who recently asserted spiritedly against police repression following the Salboni land mine blast on the CM convoy. Now the issue has shifted largely to issues like poverty alleviation, alienation of land meant for the tribal poor, tribal‚Äôs right over forest land, employment, development et al. CPI(ML) stood in strong solidarity with that movement, played a significant role in the popular ‚ÄėRation Row‚Äô movement, and even during the election campaign, organized a movement for purchase of paddy from the farmers rather than from the touts and mahajans.
The CPI (M) does not appear to have taken any lesson from the Singur and Nandigram, and a neo-liberal and pro-imperialist industrial policy continues to be its main poll plank. Barrackpur is a typical industrial belt where the policies of liberalization and globalization have taken a heavy toll on the traditional industries like jute, textiles, engineering etc. The whole area has been reduced to a graveyard of sick and dead industries. Our party has successfully led some movements in a few jute mills against the deprivation of the workers of their PF and other dues and took an active role in the recent jute strike unitedly called by all major TUs except the CITU. The strike resulted in a relatively positive settlement and helped to isolate the CITU to a large extent. Our contesting from this constituency is aimed at consolidating the gains of these movements.
Darjeeling hills is constantly burning and the autonomy movement on the demand of Gokhaland has gathered huge momentum during the last several months. The CPI (M) tried to pit the tribals and other people in the plains against the movement in the hills, but in the process lost substantial ground both in the hills as well as in the plains. The tea industry in the region is also facing acute sickness and the tea workers have to bear the brunt. The CPI (ML) has strong historical roots in this region and has remained active on all issues of popular interest. Our leading role in the movement against handing over of land of the Chandmoni Tea Garden to the real estate land sharks has earned us a distinctive place. While organizing tea garden workers, we have developed some living links with the progressive Left forces in the hills. In order to make a bold left-democratic stride in the turbulent area, the party has decided to contest the election from this constituency.¬†
In a block under the Krishnanagar constituency in Nadia, the agricultural labourers under the leadership of the party demonstrated and put the Panchayat office under lock and key against the irregularities in implementing NREGS. In Katoa under the Bardhaman constituency, the CPI(ML) joined a massive protest demonstration of the peasants against likely eviction due to the proposed thermal power project planned by the government in the area.
While the CPI(M)-led Left Front is fast drifting towards the right by embracing rightist policies and practices, the Right symbolized by TMC posturing to occupy the ‚ÄėLeft‚Äô space by championing the Left issues of land, corruption, police high handedness, employment etc. In such a perspective, the role of the revolutionary and consistent Left can only be to strive to prevent a Right revival by forging a revitalized Left resurgence. This is the CPI(ML)‚Äôs main aim in the ongoing elections.¬†
We have made beginning here with work among adivasis, forest department workers and other workers. Our candidate from Valsad (ST) is Laxmanbhai Patanwaria, involved in struggles for implementing various forest laws in favour of tribals, and in a recent struggle against an SEZ in that area. Dashrath Singhali, Party District Secretary of Sabarkantha and National Vice President of AICCTU, who has led struggles of construction workers and workers in mid-day meal schemes, is our candidate from Sabarkantha.¬†
At Chittorgarh, our candidate is Karulal Mina, who has fought many struggles for forest rights, famine relief, NREGA. At Udaipur (ST), our candidate is a young activist Gautam Lal, who has led successful struggles of quarry workers and for NREGA wages to be raised to Rs. 100. He also led a successful struggle against forcible eviction of 25 families including his own from his village. He played an important role in party‚Äôs expansion in Salumber and Dhariawar regions. At Jhunjhunu, our candidate is Phool Chand Dhewa, associated himself with ML movement in 1969 itself, and National Executive member of AIALA.
We are contesting both the constituencies in Tripura, challenging the degeneration of the CPI(M)-led LF Government, raising livelihood issues of the rural poor and asserting the rights of the tribal poor and women against state repression in the name of curbing insurgency.¬†
We are contesting from the old Left strongholds of Bathinda and Sangrur in the Malwa region of Punjab. Here although the official Left parties disappeared, the CPI(ML) has achieved a measure of success in reviving the movements of rural poor, brick kiln workers, agricultural labourers and poor dalits. At Bathinda, (which includes the party‚Äôs long-standing centre of work, Mansa), our candidate is Bhagwant Singh Samao, youth leader and organizer of agricultural labourers. At Sangrur, our candidate is Tarsem Jodhan ‚Äď formerly an MP elected from the CPI(M).¬†¬†¬†
We are contesting Nainital Udham Singh Nagar, where our candidate Bahadur Singh Jangi is a well known leader of peasant struggles, famous for being a part of land struggle of Bindukhatta in Nainital district during the eighties and early nineties. Recently he was the Convenor of a popular movement against the rape and murder of a girl in Haldwani. He has been jailed many a time on false charges under draconian laws including NSA. This constituency also includes Udham Singh Nagar district where party conducted a struggle for workers‚Äô rights in the industrial estate of SIDCUL. We have a long presence in these two districts since early eighties. In the Garhwal seat, our candidate is Indresh Maikhuri, a very popular student leader in Uttarakhand and AISA‚Äôs National President, also former President of HN Bahuguna Garhwal University Students‚Äô Union. We are also contesting Almora (SC), where we have work in rural pockets of Almora and Pithoragarh districts, raising issues of relief for the victims of natural calamities and wages and minimum rights of porters of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Our candidate Sushma Devi was an AISA activist during her student days in Kumaon University in Nainital.
At Delhi, we are contesting the North West Delhi seat, where our candidate is Mathura Paswan, President of our union in Azadpur wholesale vegetable market. He is active in struggles of unorganized industrial workers in the Wazirpur industrial area and in raising the issues of migrant workers. We are also contesting from Sonipat in Haryana, which adjoins the NW Delhi seat. At Puducherry, our candidate is leading trade union activist S Balasubramanian. At Andaman and Nicobar Islands, where AICCTU is the largest union, we are fielding AICCTU leader NKP Nair.