Whether farmers should directly contest these assembly elections? Read views of Prof Chaman Lal
I have not been very active on facebook or other social media except sharing links of some good articles/news or sharing some old memories or wishing some friends on their birthday. As I am tied up in submitting a manuscript, whose schedule time is long crossed, so trying to discipline myself. But with all the constraints, I do wish to share my views with large number of friends and likeminded people on an issue, which is very crucial in coming days and times. This issue concerns farmers participation in coming Punjab Assembly elections, may be in other states UP and Uttarakhand too, but primarily in context of Punjab. This is a very sensitive issue and lot many people are concerned about it, who have been supporting farmers struggle for their rightful and just demands and have stood in solidarity with them! These views are subject to concerned discussion, may be critical too, but not for abusive or irresponsible commentary.
The issue is whether farmers should directly contest these assembly elections? As 22 out of 32+2 organizations as part of Sanyukat Kisan Morcha have formed a new forum namely Sanyukat Samaj Morcha and decided to contest elections on all 117 seats of Punjab Assembly. While in electoral democratic system or Parliamentary democracy, anyone eligible to vote has a right to contest. But this right is theoretical or just on paper. The kind of parliamentary system has developed in India from 1952 first Parliamentary elections onwards, it needs to evaluated objectively and critically, that how much chances of success in this system is there for farmers, workers or lower income classes or sections of society.
Not only in independent India, some form of parliamentary elections is legacy left by colonial rulers. There was Central Assembly and provincial assemblies during British colonial period as well. Especially after Govt. of India Act 1935, the elections were held all over India in 1937 for many provincial assemblies as well as Central assembly. Even prior to that under Govt. of India Act 1919, the foundations of preliminary parliamentary system were laid down. Interestingly Congress party despite being critical of British set up institutions and other smaller parties and pro Govt. parties or individuals had all been participating into whatever little democratic content of these institutions was there. Even revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh had been supporting candidates in these elections. In 1926, when Lala Lajpat Rai and Moti Lal Nehru split in different parties and contested against each other Bhagat Singh and his friends supported Moti Lal Nehru candidates against Lala Lajpat Rai candidates, who had become communal minded. Moti Lal Nehru and Lala Lajpat Rai made up later with each other and stayed together in Central Assembly, perhaps called Imperial Assembly in those days. But 1937 elections to then 11 states of undivided India were major elections. Bhagat Singh's father Kishan Singh was elected unopposed to Punjab provincial assembly then in a by election in 1938 and continued till 1947. The changes after independence were in the inclusion of larger number of voters, which were limited to privileged classes prior to 1947. Dr. Ambedkar was mostly nominated member of Central Assembly and a minister too, even before independence. In 1937 major elections Congress had won 8 provinces, Muslim League 2 and Punjab was won by Unionist party-the party of big landlords. Chhotu Ram had won from Unionist party and had become minister and brought some pro farmer laws. Comrade Sohan Singh Josh had also won on Unionist party ticket and Partap Singh Kairon on Akali Dal ticket. Gopi Chand Bhargava was Congress party leader. Diwan Chaman Lal won on trade union forum and Manohar Lal from Universities constituency as an independent from 175 seats or pre partition Punjab.
So, participating in elections can be thought of, but evaluation of objective conditions is a must.
In post-independence India, in 1952 first parliamentary elections while Congress party won 364 seats out of 489, united CPI was the second largest party but with only 16 seats. While socialists had won 12 seats, along with smaller parties, leftists had won nearly 50 seats. Whereas Jansangh won only three seats and with other parties together, rightist parties could not cross even 10 seats. But in subsequent elections leftists never scored second position in Parliament, the highest no. of seats was won in 2004 elections.
But from 1952 to 2019, the parliamentary system had taken a radical shift towards rightist policies, especially after emergency. In the last seven years it has degenerated into a game of money and muscle power with bought Godi media, fame social media and electronic media, which runs 24”7 and degrades human mind to a mindless robot. The mind is not trained in critical evaluation and discern, rather it is turned into a thought less impulsive agent of brainless media’s rotten inhuman propaganda. To hope to gain space in such system is a mirage. Gone are the days when A K Roy like people’s trade unionists, could win such elections, when comrades could do campaigning on bicycles or on a single jeep, borrowed from some rich friend. Gone are the days, when candidates will not attack other candidates at personal level and tell hundred lies against rival candidates. Mud will be thrown at clean and honest candidates and it will not get cleaned, at least during election campaign period. One has to keep into account all these factors while going in for contesting elections on the basis of farmers demands, unity and programme. The fact is that the present electoral system will sap all the strength gained during the struggle with so much suffering and to gain that strength again, it will be much difficult task, and the burning rage of corporates moused rulers, at getting defeated at the hands of farmers unity, will turn into hearty laughter again, finding farmers into their electoral system trap!
In all sincerity I will suggest that Sanyukat Samaj Morcha should take part in Punjab elections but not under the illusion of getting into majority and power, which will not happen in any case, rather they should take part symbolically to strengthen their already gained victory. Rather than contesting all 117 seats, they should choose five to seven constituencies, where they should field their best representatives and put all their strength to make them all victorious at the hustings. It will be better if they choose such constituencies, which are known BJP and its allies like Betrayer Amrinder Singh&Co. constituencies and teach them a lesson of suppressing farmers and other working people of India. Otherwise also, they need their strong voice even in parliamentary institutions like Assembly, but they must not be in delusion of ‘changing the system from within’! They can declare fascist and people oppressive BJP and its supporters to be their main enemy, even in electoral politics, as they have been in real politics of ruling power and show that even in most adverse circumstances if they can win on ground level, they can also win in electoral battle, but that is possible only through symbolic and limited contest. Their moral uprightness can work only in symbolic manner. Also in practical terms, they can put their whole organisational strength in chosen 5 to 7 seats and make them all win. They can ask other political parties that they can support farmer candidates and withdraw their candidates in their support and let it have straight fight between BJP/allies versus farmers! In that case even those farmer organisations -10+2 , can think of extending all out support to their symbolic candidates and they can win all seats handsomely and assert their moral uprightness of being different from power seeking parties. They can claim to be true representatives of farmers inside assembly. Possibly all 32+2 farmer organisations can agree on such moral uprightness. They can also set an example in campaign, which they should conduct only in the form they have conducted struggle on Delhi borders. They should campaign only on cycles and tractors and by long processions on foot, not of cars like of power-seeking parties. If they can set such example, their electoral battle will draw attention of the world and be appreciated by all democratic people in the world, as they have supported their struggle on ground.
Would my farmer brothers and saviours of Indian democratic tradition, pay attention to these suggestions, at least they should debate these suggestions!
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