ML Update | 21 | 2014

MLUpdate

A CPI(ML) Weekly News Magazine

Vol. 17 No. 21 21 – 26 MAY 2014

Implications of Lok Sabha Polls 2014 Outcome

If there is an element of surprise in the eventual outcome of the 16th Lok Sabha elections, it lies not in the fact that the BJP is going to head the next government but in the kind of majority that the NDA has secured. The BJP securing a clear majority on its own and adding nearly 100 seats to its previous best tally is surely more than what most opinion polls and exit polls predicted.

Only ten years ago we had seen an NDA government get voted out in India. That was when the NDA claimed Indians were ‘feeling good’ even as tens of thousands of farmers committed suicides across India and the lives of thousands of Muslim families were devastated in BJP-ruled Gujarat. The Gujarat genocide and the man who presided over it were counted among the principal factors responsible for that ‘shock’ defeat suffered by a complacent BJP/NDA.

If ten years later the current elections have catapulted the same Narendra Modi who now promises to be the harbinger of ‘better days’ to the Prime Minister’s chair in Delhi, the irony tells us a lot about the immediate situation and the developing context as well as the peculiarities of the Indian electoral system.

Massive corruption, soaring prices, vanishing jobs and irresponsible and unresponsive governance had become the hallmarks of the UPA government, especially in the last few years, and we could see the severity of the people’s anger against the Congress/UPA misrule in the results of the Assembly elections held in November and December. It was clear that in large parts of the country the BJP was destined to be the most dominant beneficiary of that anger and consequent desire for change.

The spectacular rise of the AAP in Delhi did provide a glimpse of a popular quest for change beyond the BJP, but the way Kejriwal and his team resigned after just seven weeks took the AAP out of most middle class minds, and once Kejriwal started questioning the Modi-Ambani-Adani nexus, the corporate media’s dalliance with the AAP was all but over. Thereafter the Modi marketing mission virtually took over the mainstream political discourse and the results are now here before all of us.

The Modi campaign tapped the depth of the public despair and sold hopes of good times. Questions regarding Modi’s past record were brushed aside as an obstinate obsession with the past and Modi was presented as the fast forward call of the future. Mani Shankar Aiyar’s arrogant ‘tea seller’ comment or Priyanka Gandhi’s ill-advised ‘neech rajneeti’ remark were all lapped up and used to the hilt by Modi to highlight his OBC origin.

And of course there was the systematic use of communal venom – whether it was Amit Shah invoking Muzaffarnagar for ‘revenge’ or demonising Azamgarh as a den of terrorists or Giriraj asking Modi baiters to go to Pakistan or Modi himself asking Bangladeshis to pack up or attributing the issue of poaching of rhinos in Assam to a grand conspiracy of settling Bangladeshi immigrants and benefiting from ‘votebank politics’. This has played no small role in the BJP’s electoral mobilisation.

The BJP victory has also benefited immensely from the inherent imbalance of the first-past-the-post system. The BJP’s current vote share of 31% – phenomenal going by the BJP’s past record and considering that it has got votes from across the country including 15% from West Bengal and 10% from Kerala – which has fetched it more than 280 seats is actually 3 percentage points less than the Congress vote share in 1977 when the Congress got routed almost everywhere beyond the southern states! The BSP with 20% vote share has drawn a blank in UP as has the AAP in Delhi with 31% vote. The DMK and its allies in Tamil Nadu also failed to win a single seat despite a vote share of 27% while the Left Front got just 2 seats in West Bengal with 30% vote. It is time to reform the electoral system and introduce aspects of proportional representation as in neighbouring Nepal if not effect a complete shift to a proportional system based on the party vote as in many European countries.

The verdict has challenged and dented several myths and conventional wisdom. The Congress which now stands reduced to less than 50 seats will have to find ways to re-energise, if not reinvent itself, even though the question of finding a non-dynastic cementing factor has perhaps been deferred for a while with both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi retaining their traditional seats. The hypotheses about the supposed inevitability of coalitions and invincibility of identity politics have also proved to be overrated. The Nitish Kumar plank of trying to create an overarching politics of sub-nationalism or ‘Bihari identity’ has failed miserably. With 4 seats and 2% vote share, AAP’s debut parliamentary election has been significant in its own right, but certainly a massive climb-down from its initial claims of 100 seats and no government at the centre without AAP!

The CPI(M) and CPI attempts at winning seats and intervening in national politics through the ‘third front’ route have also reached a dead end. The conventional script of a Left revival in West Bengal, banking on the Congress-TMC split and the assumption of a rising BJP eating into the TMC vote, has not come good and the Left Front has clearly lost sizable chunks of vote to both TMC and even the BJP. We in CPI(ML) are also faced with the challenge of raising our level of electoral assertion by expanding our pockets of work and influence and backing them up with greater interaction and vigorous intervention in the wider democratic arena.

Going by the central slogan of the Modi campaign, the coming days are promised to be ‘good times’. The corporate houses who have lavishly funded the Modi campaign will surely insist on quick paybacks and a freer run and greater control over the country’s natural and financial resources along the lines already seen in Modi’s Gujarat. The RSS, the organisation which even the BJP now openly admits has played a huge role in managing the BJP’s election machinery, will also have a wider role in the affairs of the NDA-III government. And finally there is the whole question of how the Modi phenomenon will unfold.

The personality cult and the authoritarian mode of the Modi brand of governance – the systematic stifling and even physical elimination of every voice of dissent within or outside of the establishment – which Gujarat has been experiencing and which will now be sought to be replicated nationally along with other core features of the ‘Gujarat model’ will pose a whole new challenge to democracy as we have known it so far in India. There are already some reports of attacks on minorities and opposition parties. In other words, the ‘good times’ promised in the Modi campaign will turn out to be ‘difficult days’ and ‘challenging times’ for the Indian people and India’s parliamentary democracy.

The corporate media has already proved its readiness to crawl even before it is asked to bend. During the dark days of Emergency, the state had imposed censorship on the media, what we see now is ‘voluntary censorship’ choreographed by ‘invisible’ corporate-controlled strings. It remains to be seen how far the institutional edifice of India’s constitutional order can assert its independence in the face of systematic subversion and manipulation. But at the end of the day India has always defied regimentation and stagnation, and the Indian people will surely not allow democracy to be transformed into Modicracy.

CPI(ML)/AILC Performance in the 16th LS elections

In the 16th Lok Sabha elections, the CPI(ML) had fielded 83 candidates across 15 states and 3 Union Territories. With one nomination cancelled in Uttar Pradesh, 82 had remained in the fray. The party has polled a little above 1 million votes, around the same level it had polled in 2009. But given the increase in the size of the electorate and in voting percentage, our vote share dropped marginally, giving us 0.2% of the all-India vote.

Even though we knew we had no chance of polling ‘respectable’ votes in most of the seats we contested, we nevertheless decided to field candidates in almost all our areas of work, because elections provide a major opportunity to assess our work and measure our political influence apart from campaigning on the burning issues confronting the people and propagating the political viewpoint of revolutionary democracy.

Our goal was to try and secure at least 10,000 votes in all our major areas of work and a minimum of 5,000 votes in other areas/states. As results stand, we have managed to poll more than 10,000 votes in 15 seats and more than 5,000 votes in another 29 seats. In as many as 21 seats we failed to reach even the 3,000 mark.

The statewise break-up of candidates and votes are as follows: Bihar – 23 candidates, 463,045 votes; Jharkhand – 8 candidates, 319,222 votes; Assam – 5 candidates, 42,015 votes; Uttar Pradesh – 10 candidates, 37,712 votes; West Bengal – 5 candidates, 34,843 votes; Odisha – 3 candidates, 25197 votes; Tamil Nadu – 5 candidates, 13,081 votes; Punjab – 3 candidates, 11,605 votes; Uttarakhand – 3 candidates, 11,392 votes; Gujarat – 1 candidate, 9,702 votes; Rajasthan – 3 candidates, 9,512 votes; Tripura – 2 candidates, 8,670 votes; Karnataka – 4 candidates, 7885 votes; Andhra – 2 candidates, 6,626 votes; Chhattisgarh – 2 candidates, 3,925 votes; Union Territories – 3 candidates, 2842 votes.

Among our best performances, we once again finished second in Kodarma in Jharkhand despite a significant increase in our votes from about 150,000 in 2009 to more than 265,000. In Bihar, we once again finished third in Arrah and Siwan polling 98,805 and 81,006 votes respectively. Among other major seats in Bihar we polled 51,623 votes in Pataliputra, 34,365 votes in Jahanabad, 32,686 votes in Karakat and 19,477 votes in Nalanda, with Pataliputra, Nalanda and Siwan witnessing a modest increase in our votes over 2009 while in Arrah we failed to reach the 1 lakh mark for the first time since 1989.

As far as other seats are concerned, we experienced major decline in these elections in Koraput (Odisha), Autonomous District (Assam) and Katihar (Bihar). Seats where we have made a positive beginning or improved on our previous levels include Lohardaga in Jharkhand, Garhwal in Uttarakhand, Supaul and Bhagalpur in Bihar, Koliabor in Assam, Sriperumbudur and Viluppuram in Tamil Nadu, and Chandigarh among Union Territories.

Our allies in All India Left Coordination have also played an active role in these elections. CPM Punjab put up 3 candidates in Punjab and polled nearly 24,000 votes, LNP(L) contested from Kolhapur in Maharashtra and polled 7,067 votes while RMP fielded 7 candidates in Kerala, polling 50,705 votes. CPRM and CPI(ML) jointly supported independent candidate Mahendra Lama from Darjeeling and he polled 55,767 votes.

CPI(ML) Statement on the 2014 Lok Sabha Election Outcome

The outcome of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections shows an overwhelming countrywide rejection of the Congress and UPA and a decisive majority for the BJP and the NDA. The BJP and NDA clearly emerged as the biggest beneficiaries of the widespread mass anger against the UPA misrule and non-performance marked by massive corruption, price-hike and all-round economic crisis.

Ten years ago the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee which claimed India was ‘feeling good’ was voted out of power. Narendra Modi and the 2002 Gujarat carnage he presided over were clearly a major factor that determined the 2004 outcome. Ironically enough, ten years later India has elected another NDA government headed by the same Narendra Modi promising to usher in ‘good times’.

The unprecedented rise of the BJP on a truly national scale clearly marks a concentrated political expression of the continuing rightward shift in policies and politics and growing corporate domination over the spheres of economy and mass communication. While the BJP has secured close to 300 seats on its own, the Left bloc in Parliament has been reduced to just a dozen seats. The AAP which had captured considerable democratic imagination in the wake of its spectacular debut in Delhi Assembly elections has had to remain content with 4 seats that it managed to win quite surprisingly in Punjab.

The corporate sector which invested massively in Modi’s campaign obviously expects an even freer run under the new government, and the Sangh Parivar has already claimed a mandate for rapid escalation of its communal agenda. But a majority among the millions of people who have voted for a ‘Modi Sarkar’ expect a solution to their pressing economic problems and governance that is responsive, transparent and accountable, a hope which can only be disappointed by the new dispensation. In the difficult days to come the CPI(ML) will stand firmly by the people and their hopes and aspirations, and needs and interests.

The BJP election campaign did have an unmistakable communal aspect to it. The Muzaffarnagar riots were engineered with a clear purpose of creating a communal polarisation and the election speeches of several BJP leaders, Narendra Modi included, injected enough communal vitriol into the political discourse. In the middle of the elections we saw horrific communal violence in Assam and reports of post-poll attacks on minorities are also coming in from different parts of the country. The election outcome does not legitimise past crimes or exonerate the guilty, nor does it give any licence for fresh crimes against humanity. The battle for equal justice and equal rights for all will surely go on unabated.

The CPI(ML) is committed to continuing and intensifying the struggle against the corporate-dictated policies that are the root cause of corruption, price rise, unemployment and deepening economic crisis. The CPI(ML) is also committed to the ongoing struggles against all kinds of injustice and oppression, and to expose and resist any attempts to whip up campaigns against the rights of marginalised and oppressed sections of people. The party appeals to all defenders of democracy to remain vigilant against any possible attempt to vitiate the socio-political climate, subvert democratic institutions and curb people’s rights.

The 2014 outcome has highlighted the inherent vagaries of the first-past-the-post system where parties do not win seats despite securing significant votes. A 31% vote share has fetched the BJP a clear majority whereas 4% vote share for BSP has not translated into a single seat. It is high time to reform India’s electoral system and introduce aspects of proportional representation for a more realistic reflection of the political choice made by the people.

While the new government unveils its agenda, the forces of people’s movements will step up their vigil and democratic intervention and assertion on every available platform and by all possible means.

– Central Committee
CPI(ML)(Liberation)

Protests Follow Suicide of Woman Worker at Factory Gate

(With inputs from a news story titled ‘Activists demand justice for woman who killed self’ by Anumeha Yadav in The Hindu, May 15, 2014, and Comrade Abhishek of AISA, JNU)

Rakhi Sonkar, a single mother of 3 small kids was terminated by managers of Swiss Auto Pvt Ltd on the pretext of being a few minutes late. After trying in vain to persuade the factory authorities to take her back on the job, she consumed rat poison at the factory gate, in full view of fellow workers and the police. Before doing so, she publicly names the supervisor and other factory authorities who pushed her to take this extreme step.

She died in hospital two days later. Her brother recounted that even the doctor at the hospital slapped him – a reminder that workers cannot expect dignity and respect at their workplace, or even when they accompany terminal patients to a hospital!

“There were three policemen at the factory gate, but they simply watched while she threatened to kill herself and drink the rat poison. She fell over and they acted only after she showed no signs of movement,” said a 25-year old worker, who worked in the crimping section with Rakhi.

He and other workers alleged that the factory owners had fired Rakhi for supporting Amarjeet Singh, a 22-year-old former line manager at Swiss Auto in contesting his dismissal at the Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office in 2013.

Further, she had filed a complaint against the Wazirpur labour court alleging mistreatment on factory premises, they said.

“Rakhi helped me get my employment reference letter from the factory when I challenged my termination at Deputy Labour Commissioner’s office. She came to the DLC office during my hearing. She was under tremendous pressure and faced verbal abuse and she had complained about this at the DLC office three weeks back,” said Amarjeet Singh. He recounted that he had started working at the factory when he was 14.

“I worked there for six years and rose to the position of line manager. I objected to our working conditions — permanent employees were being dismissed on flimsy grounds, a five-minute delay in arriving at work meant losing a day’s wage, we were not allowed to go to the toilet for more than a few minutes a day, many workers were not being paid provident fund. When labour inspectors visited the factory, owners would not allow us to speak to them,” recounted Mr. Singh. Women workers in Wazirpur say that they are not allowed to visit the toilet when needed, even when they are having their monthly period.

Rakhi was persecuted and eventually thrown out of her job because she spoke up for the rights of other workers. Following her suicide, workers at her factory protested spontaneously. Women workers lay down on the main road near the factory gate, blocking traffic, demanding arrest of the factory authorities whom Rakhi had named as responsible for her suicide. When chased by the police, they would get up and occupy another portion of the road. The police brutally lathicharged the workers, injuring several of them, and detaining them in the police station.

AICCTU held several demonstrations and gate meetings at the factory gate, demanding justice for Rakhi, arrest and punishment of the factory authorities implicated in her suicide, compensation for her family and care of her children, and strict implementation of all labour laws in all factories in the Wazirpur Industrial Area. Every time, the police attempt to prevent activists from distributing leaflets and holding gate meetings, and try to forcibly disperse workers who gather at such meetings. The episode is a comment on the state of industrial democracy in the national capital.

In another episode in JNU, a woman sanitary worker, employed earlier in Koyna Hostel through SE Services, was not been taken back on work after she went on leave due to pregnancy. Despite the fact that the worker has the ESI documents, which shows her to be fit for work from date- 12 December-2013, the Dean of Students office, particularly the Sanitary Inspector has refused to take the worker back on duty. This is a blatant violation of the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. After this case, another woman worker in an advanced state of pregnancy refused to avail of the maternity leave she was sanctioned, for fear that she would lose her job. AISA activists took up these cases and have been struggling in support of the rights of workers on the JNU campus. In solidarity with the woman worker, and also in protest against the non-payment of monthly salary, workers stopped work for a day. The contractor was forced to make the monthly payment to the workers, while the crucial issue of taking back the woman worker still remains unsolved. It is as though the university administration are implying that the workers must refrain from bearing child in order to save an already underpaid job!

Edited, published and printed by S. Bhattacharya for CPI(ML) Liberation from U-90, Shakarpur, Delhi-92; printed at Bol Publication, R-18/2, Ramesh Park, Laxmi Nagar, Delhi-92; Phone:22521067; fax: 22442790, e-mail: mlupdate, website: www.cpiml.org

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