The two-week campaign for the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha elections concluded on October 13; the date of polling is on October 15; and the counting of votes is on October 19.
All the bourgeois parties vied with one another to fudge the real issues in this election. This was simply because on all the major socio-economic issues that matter, all of them have identical policies that favour the vested interests and attack the people. The issues of the working class, the peasantry, agricultural workers, lower middle class and of the various socially oppressed sections are being given the back seat. Precisely because the leading bourgeois players have no policy differences worth the name, they resort to inane personal attacks on their opponents and to morally defenceless, utterly shocking public remarks.
Union Minister and former BJP president Nitin Gadkari led the pack. In a public meeting at Nilanga in Latur district on October 5, Gadkari trampled upon the election code of conduct and shamelessly declared, “In the next 10 days all of you will have in your stars the chance of Laxmi Darshan. Do not kick away the Laxmi (wealth) that will come to you. . . There will be foreign liquor for the special leaders and country liquor for the petty leaders. Eat what you want, drink what you want and keep what you get!” (Maharashtra Times, October 6).
NCP leader and until recently state home minister, R R Patil went on a different yet equally condemnable track. In an election meeting at Kavthe Ekand in Sangli district on October 11, Patil attacked the MNS candidate who had charges of rape against him and said, “The MNS has put up a candidate here. There is a crime of rape registered against him. If he wanted to contest from here, if he wanted to become the MLA from here, he should at least have committed rape after the elections!” (Maharashtra Times, October 12).
Both the above declarations were widely condemned and complaints were registered with the election commission. Such statements showed the abysmal level to which bourgeois campaigning has sunk. Along with this are the disturbing reports that have been appearing in the media every day of the lakhs and crores of rupees that have been found and confiscated in raids conducted by the police all over the state. Despite all talk of the authorities cracking down on ‘paid news’, the phenomenon persists and ‘packages’ of various amounts are being offered to various candidates by local ‘dalals’.
The BJP is making all-out efforts to secure a majority on its own and for this it is making the maximum use of money power. Like in the Lok Sabha election campaign, huge front page advertisements of the BJP have started appearing in all leading dailies and on all television channels. Narendra Modi is being projected as their mascot and he has addressed over 20 public meetings all over the state during the last one week.
Learning from its setbacks in the recent state assembly by-polls in various parts of the country, the main plank of the BJP is criticism of the 15 year-old Congress-NCP regime in the state and the issue of rapid development. Communal issues are being put on the back burner publicly for the time being, although RSS activists are stoking the communal fire in their local door-to-door campaign. The BJP is being hotly opposed and criticised by all other forces, especially by the Shiv Sena.
Another worrisome aspect of the Maharashtra poll scene this time is the concerted attempt of the MIM to woo the Muslim minority community. The MIM has put up a number of candidates. Owaissi has addressed several public meetings and he appears to be attracting some sections of the Muslim youth. How this will reflect in the voting remains to be seen.
In spite of the vitriolic attacks on one another by the Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS, and by the Congress and the NCP, it is crystal clear that in case of a hung assembly, some of them will come together in various thoroughly opportunistic permutations and combinations, depending on their strength in the new state assembly.
IMPRESSIVE CPI(M) CAMPAIGN
In most of the 20 assembly seats that the CPI(M) is contesting, the election campaign began many months ago with constant struggles and agitations that were led by the CPI(M) and the mass fronts led by it on various burning issues of the people. Thousands of people took part in these struggles. Some of the main issues that were taken up concerned drought and the demand for water, food, employment and fodder, compensation for crop loss due to hailstorms, the waiving of peasant debt, the burning demands of unorganised workers and agricultural labourers, the implementation of the Food Security Act, the Forest Rights Act and NREGA, the vexed issue of electricity, growing atrocities on Dalits and women etc.
Thousands of people took part in the processions held from September 20 to 27 to submit the nomination forms of CPI(M) candidates. A massive number of attractive leaflets were printed and distributed in each constituency. Hundreds of meetings in villages and mohallas were held, along with a concerted door-to-door campaign.
In the last one week from October 5 to 12, impressive rallies and public meetings of the CPI(M) were held in all the 20 constituencies. Among the CPI(M) central leaders who addressed public meetings during this election campaign in Maharashtra were Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury and Brinda Karat, Central Secretariat members Hannan Mollah and Nilotpal Basu, Central Committee members Mohd Salim and Subhashini Ali and Tripura leader Jitendra Choudhury. CPI(M) state leaders also addressed these meetings, along with leaders of other Left, democratic and secular parties.
A state-level social media workshop in Pune; launching of the new website of the CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee (address http://www.mahacpim.in) ; and various press meets of the leaders completed the picture of the enthusiastic election campaign in Maharashtra.