Presidential Poll 2012 :
Opportunist Realignment in Coalition Politics
As an electoral contest, the July 2012 presidential election is no cliff-hanger, even if the BJP and some regional parties are trying to deny the Congress a walkover. Given the latest political alignment, Pranab Mukherjee seems all set to enter the Rashtrapati Bhavan as Pratibha Patil’s successor. What is of real interest is the curious pattern of the emerging political alignment ahead of the bigger battle scheduled in 2014. Both the leading coalitions, the UPA and the NDA, stand divided as do the Left Front and for that matter any potential coalition of regional parties.
If Mamata Banerjee’s TMC is threatening to break ranks with the UPA, JD(U) and Shiv Sena have already extended support to the Congress candidate. Having waited for the Congress to declare its candidate, the BJP now complains about not being consulted by the Congress and has chosen to back PA Sangma, the candidate proposed by the AIADMK and BJD, who had to quit his own party NCP to join the Presidential race. The SP and BSP, the two heavyweight parties from UP, are both busy in a competitive bargain with the Congress and the Centre. And the Left bloc too has now got divided with the CPI(M) and Forward Bloc supporting Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature even as the CPI and RSP have decided to abstain.
The BJP would have loved to use the Presidential poll as an opportunity to attract more allies, yet ironically enough, it finds two of its oldest allies ditching it on this occasion. Why did Nitish Kumar choose this time to oppose the prospect of Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate to join hands with the Congress and UPA on the presidential poll? This may well be Nitish Kumar’s way of staking his own claim against Modi and a tool for bargaining with the Centre for greater funds for Bihar, but the most pressing reason lies within Bihar where his government is drawing flaks from all quarters for its growing non-performance, failure and betrayal, and Nitish Kumar obviously needs to divert the public attention elsewhere.
The CPI(M)’s support for Pranab Mukherjee has come with the most bankrupt of arguments. Prakash Karat has now joined Buddhadeb Bhattacherjee to argue that the presidential poll should be delinked from the political battle against neo-liberal pro-imperialist policies! ‘Oppose Pranab Mukherjee as Finance Minister but support him as President’ is the AKG Bhavan’s latest doublespeak. Karat also argues that Mukherjee should be supported as he already enjoys ‘the widest acceptance’ and the CPI(M) should therefore play ball and not spoil the party! He has also candidly reminded everybody that it has been his party’s normal practice to support Congress candidates in presidential election, the only exception being the 2002 election when APJ Abdul Kalam was viewed as the BJP’s candidate and hence opposed.
Sixteen years ago, it was the CPI(M) which refrained from participating in the UF government at the Centre even as the CPI joined the Union cabinet. Prakash Karat had then famously vetoed Surjeet’s proposal to make Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister of the UF government. The circle has now been completed with Prakash Karat reportedly giving his ‘casting vote’ to prevail over an evenly divided polit bureau and clinch the decision to support Pranab Mukherjee. And ironically, it is now the CPI which has refused to fall in line.
The CPI(M) decision to go with the Congress in the presidential poll has begun to create some ripples within the party with the convenor of the party’s research cell resigning from the party in protest. Coupled with the ongoing crisis in Kerala and Prabhat Patnaik’s salvo against what he calls the ‘feudal-Stalinist’ culture in Kerala CPI(M), the debate over the presidential poll may well herald another ‘July crisis’ for the CPI(M). For all those who had taken the CPI(M)’s Kozhikode Congress call for ‘Left and democratic alternative’ as sign of a ‘leftward restoration and rectification’ within the party, the recent Kerala developments and now the decision to support the Congress nominee in presidential election should serve as important ‘reality checks’.
It is height of opportunist bankruptcy to suggest that the presidential election has nothing to do with the struggle against the anti-people policies of the government. Equally irrelevant in this case is the CPI(M)’s other stock argument of supporting the Congress to keep the BJP out of power. The only principled course for the Left in this presidential election could have been to abstain, and abstain precisely as a statement of opposition to the policy trajectory of the ruling classes and its disastrous outcome which has pushed the country deep into an all-pervasive crisis marked by unbridled corruption and corporate loot, massive pauperisation, growing imperialist interference and systematic assault on democracy. Thus alone could it forcefully register its political independence and use this occasion to assert its basic position for the approaching political battles.
CPI(ML) GS Visits Bangladesh
CPI(ML) General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya visited Bangladesh on the occasion of the 8th anniversary of the reorganisation of the Revolutionary Workers’ Party of Bangladesh (14 June 2012). He was accompanied by Comrade Basudev Basu, standing committee member of the Party’s West Bengal State Committee and one of the National Secretaries of AICCTU.
On 13 June, they visited all important national memorials in Dhaka and paid homage to the martyrs of the Bangladesh liberation war and language movement. On the evening of 14 June, they addressed a seminar on imperialist aggression in South Asia and the fight for people’s liberation held in the National Press Club. Comrade Saiful Huq, General Secretary, presented a paper on behalf of RWPB. Other speakers from Bangladesh included economist Anu Muhammad, Secretary of the Committee to Protect Water-oil-gas-power-port, a popular broad-based Left platform of struggle in Bangladesh, and several left leaders and writers. Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya spoke on behalf of the CPI-ML.
The next day a daylong central delegate session of RWPB took place in which the two parties had an intensive exchange of experiences. On the morning of June 15 there was a get-together with Trade Union leaders of Bangladesh and in the evening there was a seminar on capitalism, corporate media and struggle for people’s liberation held in RC Mazumdar Auditorium of Dhaka University. This was organised by the RWPB monthly organ Janoganotantro (People’s Democracy) to mark its 8th anniversary. The Speakers included Prof Sirajul Islam Chaudhury, Emeritus Professor of English and noted Marxist intellectual, Nurul Kabir, editor of the English daily The New Age, Benzin Khan, writer, and Comrades Saiful Huq and Dipankar Bhattacharya. The seminar was chaired by Banhisikha Jamali, editor, Janoganotantro and the proceedings were conducted by Dr. Akhtaruzzaman, CCM RWPB and Professor, Food and Nutrition Science, Dhaka University. On the afternoon of June 17 a discussion session took place with leaders of various Left parties in Bangladesh in which CPB President Comrade Monzurul Ahsan Khan, Marxist writer Samsuzzoha Manik, Jonaid Saki, convenor of People’s Solidarity Movement, leaders of Basad (Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal), and various leaders of Ganotantrik Bam Morcha (Democratic Left Alliance) participated.
Experiences of revolutionary communist movements in both countries were exchanged, and discussion took place on issues of bilateral and regional importance, and it was resolved to intensify united anti-imperialist struggle, sectoral cooperation and people-to-people contact and exchange. India’s growing strategic proximity and partnership with the US, delay in resolving various issues of bilateral concern and lack of time-bound fulfilment of various commitments made by India in bilateral declarations and agreements are matters of serious public concern and anger in Bangladesh.
The visit will help deepen mutual understanding between the CPI-ML and RWPB, strengthen mutual ties and contribute to the coming together of revolutionary Left forces in South Asia.
CPI(ML) Dharna on Emergency Day
Marking the anniversary of the Emergency, the CPI(ML) held a dharna at Jantar Mantar on 26 June against the ‘undeclared Emergency’ of today, in which various draconian laws and repressive measures are being used to crackdown on dissent and crush democracy.
CPI(ML) Central Committee member Prabhat Kumar said that the UPA Government is attempting to crack down on the growing people’s anger and protest against price rise, corruption and corporate loot. People protesting against corporate land grab and loot are being jailed under draconian laws like ‘sedition,’ ‘waging war on the state’ and UAPA. In Bihar, the Government has brutally beaten up and jailed leaders, including the former CPI(ML) MLA, for leading struggles demanding a CBI enquiry into the murder of political activists like Bhaiyyaram Yadav of CPI(ML) and Chhotu Kushwaha. But following the killing of the notorious perpetrators of mass massacres of dalits, Ranveer Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh, the same Government allowed his supporters to go on a rampage and attack public property and dalit hostels, unchecked.
CC Member Kavita Krishnan said that draconian laws are being enacted and existing laws amended to violate people’s rights and suppress dissent. She cited the instance of Binayak Sen, and condemned the conviction of Seema Azad and Vishwavijay in UP under the clause of ‘waging war against the State.’ She said that in West Bengal, the CM Mamata Banerjee is jailing anyone who criticizes her – including schoolteachers, university professors and cartoonists! In the North East and Kashmir, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is being used to protect men in uniform who indulge in the murder of civilians.
The dharna was conducted by CPI(ML) leader and former President of Kumaon University, Girija Pathak, said that every people’s movement is facing a major crackdown: from the adivasis’ struggle against land grab by Korean company POSCO in Odisha, to anti-nuclear struggles at Jaitapur and Koodenkulam, to struggles against land grab at Jharkhand, and struggles of forest dwellers at Uttararakhand for their rights.
CPI(ML) Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma said that increasingly spaces for democratic protest are shrinking even in the national capital. Democratic protestors are being forced to seek ‘permission’ for protests.
AICCTU Delhi Secretary Santosh Roy said that workers all over the country especially in the Delhi NCR region, are routinely denied their legal right to form unions and demand their rights. He cited the instance of the Air India workers and extended support to their struggle.
AISA National General Secretary Ravi Rai said that Students are being prevented by the Lyngdoh Committee recommendations, from enjoying the freedom to elect student unions of their own choice. All over the country, Muslim youths are being picked up on charges of ‘terrorism’ – but they are jailed even when there is no evidence against them, and subjected to torture.
The dharna was also addressed by youth from Ramgarh village who spoke of the attack on dalits in their village; by Shivani Nag from JNU, Farhan from Jamia Millia Islamia; social activist Himanshu Kumar, RYA leader Aslam Khan, AICCTU leader Mathura Paswan, and many others, who called to intensify the protest against this undeclared Emergency, break the shackles and free democracy.
Struggle Against Attacks on Dalit Hostels in Ara
Following the death of Brahmeshwar Singh, his supporters attacked dalit hostels in Ara on June 1. There was widespread arson and loot, with police doing nothing to stop the miscreants. 16 ground floor rooms were fully burnt, and belongings looted. 100 students’ marksheets, certificates, and other documents were burnt. 40-50 cycles and 3 motorcycles were burnt. Laptops, TV sets, gas cylinders, cookers, vessels were either destroyed or looted. A bust of Dr. Ambedkar was vandalised.
The Ambedkar Kalyan Hostel at Katira was attacked thrice, and there were also attacks at dalit hostels at Chandi Lodge near Jain College, and at Maulabag.
On 18 June, hostel students organized by AISA gheraoed the DM. Students broke police barricades at the main gate of the DM’s office, and held a mass meeting for three hours. Yet the DM did not see fit to meet the students. Instead, students were arrested. The DM met students only at 4 pm on 19 June. AISA demanded compensation and speedy hostel accommodation for the students, and criminal cases against assailants.
On 20 June, AISA and RYA held a militant demonstration to the Chief Minister, led by AISA State Secretary Abhyuday and RYA State Secretary Naveen Kumar. Students marched at noon, clashed with the police at Dakbangla crossing, broke the barricades and marched towards the IT crossing. They were stopped by police at Kotwali Thana and arrested. Inside the police station too they continued to demand to meet the CM. Late in the evening, an AISA-RYA delegation met the SC/ST Welfare Minister Jitanram Majhi, and also sent a letter to the CM, demanding that the hostel be properly rebuilt speedily, and legally allotted to students; students be compensated for the losses they suffered; degrees that were destroyed be reissued to students speedily; students be provided with full security, and provided with alternative living and food arrangements in the interim till the hostel is rebuilt. AISA also pointed out that the dalit hostels are in a sorry state all over Bihar, and demanded an investigation into the diversion of funds meant for SC/ST welfare, as well as the rampant scams in dalit students’ scholarships.
AIPWA State Conference In Odisha
The first State Conference of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) was held in Odisha on 17 June. Around 148 delegates participated in the state conference from different district of Odisha, including from Rayagada, Bhadarak, Puri, and Kendrapara.
Com Sabita Baraj presented a report of AIPWA activities, which was passed by all members. A 27-member state council was elected with Comrade Sanjukuta Panigrahi as President and Comrade Sabita Baraj as General Secretary, Comrades Sita Das, Padmini Gamango and Srimati Das as vice presidents.
The Conference adopted several resolutions – condemning the growing rape and atrocities against women during Naveen Patnaik’s rule, especially demanding justice for the dalit rape victim at Pipili; a stop to the promotion of alcohol; condemning the repression on struggles against corporate loot and eviction of women from their land; against sex-selective abortions, trafficking of women; demanding measures to reduce outmigration of women from Odisha in search of work, and social security for women migrants.
Rickshaw Pullers’ Protest at Bhubaneswar
The Rajdhani Rickshaw Cooli Sangha protested at the Bhubaneswar office of the East Coast Railway on 7 June. Around 60 rickshaw pullers marched from Kalinga Hospital, shouting slogans. The rally was led by Mahendra Parida, Secretary of AICCTU and Seema Sethi, General Secretary of the Rickshaw Cooli Sangha. The Rally was culminated at the East Coast Railway office and a mass meeting was held, addressed by Janaki Rao, President of Rajadhani Bastibasinda (slumdwellers’) Sangha , Ravi Das, CPI(ML)’s Bhubaneswar local committee member, Seema Sethi and Mahendra Parida. After the meeting, a 5-point charter of demands was given to the General Manager of the ECR by a 5-member delegation. The demand was to provide a permanent rickshaw stand at the Railway Station campus, stop police atrocities by RPF, allow rickshaw pullers inside the railway station to call passengers on hire, and issue the rickshaw pullers permanent passes to enter the railway platform.
AICCCTU Initiatives in Odisha
On June 4-5, a two-day workshop of construction workers was conducted at Nagabhushan Bhavan. 22 activists from the districts of Gajapati, Kendrapara, Bhubaneswar, Puri, Sundragarh and Keonjhar participated. RN Thakur, General Secretary of the All India Construction Workers’ Federation attended as a resource person and Mahendra Parida of AICCTU also assisted. The workshop stressed the need to unionize construction workers and bring them to the fold of AICCTU and AICWF. The participants took up a target of 3000 membership between June to October 2012 and to hold districts conferences.
East Coast Railway Sweepers’ Union conducted movements in Puri and Bhubaneswar. Members of the Puri sweepers’ union wore black badges demanding that three comrades be taken back on the job and against retrenchment of two workers in Bhubaneswar railway station, as well as provision of PF, ESI, and 4 holidays in a month. After Cormades Dilip Samal, Mahendra Parida and Bharat Ghadei held talks, the workers were taken back on the job.
AIPWA Team Investigates Murder of Woman Gram Pradhan in UP
An AIPWA team visited Sukrit village in Sonbhadra district of UP to look into the murder of a woman gram pradhan. Sonbhadra is a stronghold of land mafia forces, where the latter grab land and indulge in illegal mining. The local police colludes with this loot machinery. Sukrit village in particular is a centre of stone quarrying. Gram pradhans who refuse to be a part of the illegal trade in stone are eliminated by the nexus of land mafia and police. Two women gram pradhans in Sukrit village were recently murdered in such circumstances.
On 5 June, 45-year-ol Dhunna Devi, an adivasi woman gram pradhan was shot dead near her home. The AIPWA team went to the village and met her family and other villagers. The family members told the team that the police was pressurising Dhunna Devi’s sons and her husband through torture and beatings to force them to confess to the murder. Villagers said the family was in a state of terror and insecurity. The AIPWA team held a press conference at Robertsganj which was also addressed by Dhunna Devi’s family members, and demanded a high-level enquiry into the incident and punishment for the killers; Rs 10 lakh compensation for Dhunna Devi’s family; protection for Dhunna Devi’s family; and a job for a member of her family.
The team compromised Kusum Verma, Shikha Singh, and Bhagmati from AIPWA as well as CPI(ML) State Secretary Sudhakar Yadav, and activists Shashikant and Rampravesh.
Convention of Xomox Employees' Union
To commemorate the silver jubilee of their union, workers of Xomox Sanmar Limited (an American MNC), Tiruchi, Tamilnadu, organized a convention under the banner of Xomox Employees’ Union on 17 June, with a slogan “Union will continue to fight for the better working and living conditions of workers”. Com A S Kumar, Deputy General Secretary of the State AICCTU was the chief guest. The Convention was addressed among others by Comrades K G Desikan, state secretary of AICCTU and also Ex- President of the union, N Balakrishnan, District President of AITUC and also a labour lawyer, and Selvaraj, Pudukkottai district secretary of CITU. A delegation of factory level union leaders of various constituent companies of Sanmar group like Flowserve, Fisher etc from Chennai also participated.
Almost all factory level leaders of various corporate companies in Tiruchi addressed the convention. Workers of Sanmar group companies , TVS, Rane TRW, Shri Ram Fibres, Cethar Vessels and Ordnance Factory participated. A delegation of contract labour union of Rane who were on the strike for the last 140 days also attended.
All speakers of various streams of TU movement recognized the fighting spirit and solidarity role played by AICCTU in all these 25 years of journey of Xomox employees’ union and Industry level struggles of other unions.
Rally in Valsad (Gujarat) for Implementation of Forest Rights Act 2005
CPI(ML) held a rally at Valsad district headquarters in Gujarat on 22 June protesting the non-implementation of Forest Rights Act and reigning terror of land mafia working in nexus with the bureaucrats and politicians in the district. This nexus exposes the reality of Narendra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat' and explains to some extent from where his 'vibrancy' is coming from!
A large part of the Umargaon block of Valsad had been acquisitioned by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation long back, and now it has been turned into a big industrial zone. Now, whatever part of land is left is inhabited by the local tribal population who are consistently under the threat of land grabbers and goons. The adivasi living there for generations, have no land records in their names. The Gujarat govt. as well as land mafia both are using forged land records and goons to evict them. The CPI(ML) has been active and struggling for adivasi rights in the area since last five years. Last year there were even organised attacks on villages where party is having people's supprt. The Party continues to resist the land grab attempt going on very aggressively and on a massive scale in many panchayats including Punat, Sarigam, Dili, Malkhet, Manekpur, etc. in this block. There is perfect understanding between Congress and BJP at the grassroots level on how to grab the lands in favour of big capital-mafia nexus. The local MLA Raman Patkar is from BJP have a reputation of a successful land-grabber-cum-mafia. On the other hand, the biggest name in land grabbing is said to be of one Haju Sheikh in this region, who is a known Congress face and incidentally, also an accused in 'Bombay Blast' case.
The nearby Kaprada block covers large forest tracts, but here too eviction of adivasis by forest officials in a routine affair. Instead of providing them land rights documents under Forest Rights Act 2005, the forest lands are being taken from them in the name of building nurseries, or for development of forest produce, and being given to various agencies, mainly the NGOs. The records of adivasis habitations have yet not been prepared in Palsana and Silada panchayats where around hundred families are residing on nearly 500 acres in forest for many generations.
This rally was organised is this backdrop, where hundreds of adivasi toiling masses enthusistically took part with red flags and banners. A large number of participants were women. Rally was addressed by CPI(ML) CC member Prabhat Kumar, and Gujarat State Committee member Laxman Patanwadia, Party's Valsad leader Laxman Varia, RYAs Amit and many others. The Rally gave a memorandum demanding 1- Giving land rights of all adivasis living on their land for generations and making proper documents in this regard, 2- Reclaiming those lands which have been snatched from adivisis by the land mafia in various ways, 3- To implement Forest Rights Act 2005, 4- to Constitute a Special Task Force for this purpose, and 5- to punish those guilty of attacking poor adivasis, activists and CPI(ML) leaders in the past and to speedily resolve court cases against them in order to provide justice to the common adivasis and struggling activists.
Comrade Neema Nagarkoti
The Party mourns the untimely demise of Com. Neema Nagarkoti in a road accident on 9 June, 2012 while she was on her way to Pithoragarh to attend the Uttarakhand State Committee meeting of AICCTU. Com. Neema was a dedicated party worker, and an active leader of AICCTU and the ASHA workers’ Union. She was an able organizer, energetic leader and a fighter for whom our best tribute would be to work harder towards the vision of a just and oppression-free India.
35 year old Com. Neema faced and overcame many obstacles in her personal life. Struggle made her strong and she brought the same faith in struggle and the same strength to her work in public life too. Initially she was district secretary of an NGO-run ASHA Workers’ Union. In May 2011 she came into contact with the Party and AICCTU, and became the President of the Moonakot Block Unit. Com. Neema actively participated in the district level workshops, the rally in Delhi on September 5, 2011 and the National conference of AICCTU in Bhilai in November 2011. Her dedication as a member of CPI-ML, State committee member of ASHA Union and District committee member of AICCTU was remarkable.
Red Salute to Com. Neema!
Comrade Dipankar Mukherjee
The CPI(ML) expresses heartfelt condolences on sudden demise of Comrade Dipankar Mukherjee, senior leader of the CITU.
He passed away at Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi on 18 June 2012, following a bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 69.
As a trade union leader, and as a parliamentarian (he had been a Rajya Sabha MP from the CPI(M) for 12 years), he resisted the policies of privatization. He was known for his deep grasp of working class issues.
Like many on the Left, he felt deep concerns about the direction of the Left movement in India. It is a sign of his abiding hope and faith in the Left movement that, just a few months before his sudden illness and demise, he had visited the CPI(ML) office to meet with the party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya.
Comrade Dipankar Mukherjee’s passing is a deep loss to the working class movement and the Left movement.
Red Salute to Comrade Dipankar Mukherjee!