इसका हिन्दी अनुवाद यहाँ पढ़े.
Note: No part of this text should be published either wholly or in part without the author's prior and explicit consent.
Typically, much of the past month has been spent in mostly pointless finger pointing: rather than pondering over WHAT factors are responsible for our defeat in Chhattisgarh, we- as a Party- are more focused on WHO is to blame. Such an approach can only lead to inquisitorial witch-hunting, which would do harm than good to our prospects in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. In my opinion, there are five factors (vis-à-vis our wipeout in Bastar, sidelining of Satnamis, alliance with the NCP, delay in ticket-distribution & the ABJ Policy):
A. WIPEOUT IN BASTAR
First and foremost, is our total wipeout in the tribal region of Bastar, where we lost 11 of the 12 seats. There are two reasons for this. One, the illogical choice of party candidates. To illustrate, consider the following four cases:
(1) A lady has been persistently losing every single election she contested since 1990: in 2 of 4, she forfeited her deposit. Less than four years ago (2004), her real brother failed to win the Sarpanch election; her daughter-in-law forfeited her deposit in the Janpad election. Yet she is given the party ticket for the fifth consecutive time against an aspirant who lost his last election by about 1000 votes, and remained fairly active as the voice of the Opposition since.
(2) There are three blocks in a constituency: Bhanpuri, Mardepar & Narayanpur. Bhanpuri & Mardepar have more than 1,30,000 voters; Narayanpur, which is 150 kilometers from these two blocks & lies in the heart of thickly-forested Naxalite territory, has 13,000 voters. A person from Narayanpur is given the ticket.
(3) A chronic party-shifter recently returns to the party by way of BSP & BJP after having lost every single election he contested in the interregnum. His Delhi-based daughter, who can’t speak a word of the local dialect, is allotted the party ticket.
(4) In a seat where there are only about 500 Jain voters, we give a ticket to a Jaini knowing that the BJP candidate is also from this community.
It is woefully obvious that in each of these four instances, we inexplicably made choices that defy not only logic but also that rarest of things, common sense. The same is true for at least two other constituencies, Kondagaon & Keshkal, where party tickets were given to relatively unknown persons over more established figures.
While this reason accounts for much of North Bastar (Jagdalpur, Narayanpur & Kanker districts), the second reason explains our defeat in the South (Dantewada & Bijapur districts): it is the state-sponsored Salwa Judum (SJ) movement, which has led to the forceful uprooting of over 70000 tribals from about 600 villages, and their displacement to about 26 makeshift roadside ‘camps’, where they continue to live in inhuman conditions, as well as the merciless slaughter of thousands of innocent tribals. Writing on July 8 2006, I had offered the following observation about SJ:
“Further sustenance of SJ is based on its own three-fold logic, and has nothing to do with tribal-interests:
• POLITICAL: Come election-time, and there will be no polling stations in evacuated villages. Instead they will be set-up well within the guarded perimeter of these 6-7 concentration camps. (This number eventually increased to 26) And it doesn't take a psephologist to predict the electoral outcome under such ‘free, fair and impartial’ conditions. Does it? Think about it. Had elections been ‘conducted’ in Auschwitz, wouldn’t the National Socialists (Nazis) have swept the polls? Thankfully, unlike Der Fuhrer- who didn’t consider his refugees worthy of the vote- this regime views the tribals as- and only as- a votebank. And SJ, as it happens, is the surest way to encash this votebank en block.
• CULTURAL: Concentration of vast tribal populations in the controlled environment of camps provides an easy assembly-line for the Sangh troika and its affiliates to work overtime in order to factory-produce indoctrinated specimens: a people repeatedly told that they are worshipping ‘false’ gods, eating ‘polluted’ foods, following ‘promiscuous’ practices and ‘anachronistic’ customs; and systematically made to feel ashamed about their (former) ‘primitive and barbaric’ way of life; thus slowly but surely falling in line with the (pseudo) ‘hindutva’ pogrom of the RSS. Much more than the geopolitical displacement, it is this sense of ‘cultural displacement’, which will come from living in camps, that worries me. Henceforth, camp-inmates will be permanently scarred by a false sense of ‘inferiority-complex’, and adapted to a type of doggish existence where they will be always told what to do and feel and think. Free will has been the greatest casualty.
• ECONOMIC: As with all tribal-targeted government schemes, SJ camps have given birth to their own peculiar industry. Tens of millions of rupees spent daily by the state-exchequer to provide housing, food, health-care and schooling to the over 70,000 tribals is being siphoned off by a clique of middlemen, in cohorts with their bureaucratic and political patrons. Put simply, it is not in their interest to wind-up such an enormously lucrative & profitable business.”
Now, I can’t help feeling a bit like Cassandra, doomed to see the future and yet unable to do anything about it. The fact is that the BJP has, thanks to SJ, gained a foothold in South Bastar for the first time since elections commenced in 1952: in a region where the contest had always been between Communists (CPI) and Congress, they have won two out of three seats outright and we’ve managed to defeat them in the third by a measly margin of 190 votes. Needless to say, the BJP votes all came from SJ camps, which together accounted for more than 70% polling in these three seats. The Congress simply avoided defining its position on the issue, perhaps hoping to have the cake & eat it too: its CLP leader headed this movement, which had the full backing of the state as well as the Union governments, whereas another faction, led by my father & having the unequivocal support of an overwhelming majority of the party’s elected representatives in the state, opposed it for the reasons I’ve mentioned above. In my opinion, this procrastinated ambiguity has cost us dearly.
I believe that the battle for Bastar goes deeper than elections; it is a battle for the very Soul of Tribal India. While the BJP & its affiliates- its extensive network of Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas & Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams- work fulltime in even the remotest areas of Bastar with the unequivocal backing of the state administration, we’ve nothing, absolutely nothing, to counter this. In a sense, we’ve left the field open to them to do as they will. It is therefore surprising that despite all this, we’re still in the game: we did, after all, lose 3 of these 12 seats by very narrow margins: Antagarh by 90 votes (mainly because of rigging done during counting), Bastar by 1200 votes and Kondagaon by 2770 votes. To me, it is clear that people in these 3 constituencies did want change, but to put it simply, we failed to offer them viable alternatives.
More significantly, the most crucial lesson from our second consecutive loss of Bastar is the absolute necessity of taking the fight into the educational and cultural fields, where the BJP-RSS-VHP troika and its affiliates have a field day. If this is not done soon, we might end up losing Bastar- and perhaps, all of tribal India- to the communal forces of Hate forever.
B. SIDELINING OF SATNAMIS
The second most significant factor- and one which the current Inquisitorial polemic tends of ignore- is the rising influence of the BSP rising influence of the BSP due to the total sidelining of the Satnami (SC) community within the party even though they had strongly stood by the Congress in 2003’s Assembly elections (thus accounting for a decline in BSP’s voteshare from from 5.65% in 1998 to 4.4% in 2003; even more significantly, it had lost its deposit in 46 of the 54 seats from where it contested): it is indeed shocking that not one person from this community numbering more than 25,00,000 found representation at the block, district or state levels of the party organization during the past five years.
Take the case of Patharia block: after the death of the incumbent Block Congress Committee (BCC) president more than four years ago, the local MLA urged that a respected member of the Satnami community be appointed to fill the vacancy; to date, that post is vacant. Likewise, not one District Congress Committee (DCC) president is a Satnami nor have they found any representation in the reconstituted Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC); also, none of state heads of frontal organizations (Seva Dal, Youth Congress, NSUI & Mahila Congress) come from this community. The exodus to the BSP seems, therefore, to be a natural outcome of this most unfortunate trend.
The consequences for the Congress have, to put it blatantly, been fatal: in atleast 11 of the 17 seats where they took more than 8000 votes, the BSP’s candidates directly contributed to our party’s defeat by relatively narrow margins: Mungeli (SC), Takhatpur, Bilha, Beltara & Masturi (SC) in Bilaspur district; Nawagarh (SC) in Durg district; Akaltara, Janjgir-Champa, Pamgarh (SC) & Chanderpur in Janjgir district; and Baloda Bazar in Raipur district. At the risk of sounding alarmist, if this trend is not stopped forthwith, it might permanently lead to the Satnamis leaving the Congress en mass for the BSP in the impending Lok Sabha elections.
C. ALLIANCE WITH NCP
The third factor is the party’s alliance with the NCP, which is both a leaderless and cadre-less party in Chhattisgarh. Against overwhelming opposition from local party units, we left 3 seats for the NCP: one which we had won & had our sitting MLA (Manendragarh); a second where they had lost their deposit, barely getting a few hundred votes (Samri); and the third from where their state president, a Congress rebel who was denied ticket at the very last instance, had been elected but would quite readily have agreed to contest on the Congress symbol (Chanderpur). I can’t help feeling that the moment we announced this alliance, we gifted these 3 seats to the BJP. What is infinitely worse, our ally’s real alliance seems to have been with the BJP, not with Congress. The following illustrations should make this amply clear:
(1) Manendragarh constituency is essentially a conglomerate of two cities, Chirmiri and Manendragarh. There is a traditional rivalry between the two cities because both were keen to become headquarter of the new district. Chirmiri (72000 voters) is about 4 times bigger than Manendragarh (21000 voters). Under the circumstances, the natural choice of candidate should have fallen to someone from Chirmiri. The NCP, in total defiance of this logic, gave its ticket to a resident from Manendragarh while the BJP candidate, who was a virtual nobody from Chirmiri, easily swept the polls.
(2) Likewise, Samri is a tribal constituency where Kanwars constitute almost 75% of the electorate; Uraons are only about 10%. Of the Uraons, less than 5% are Christian Uraons. Any party wishing to win this seat would have given its ticket to a Kanwar; but again, the NCP, defying all common sense, gave it to a Christian Uraon. Not surprisingly, its candidate got about 8000 votes as opposed to the BJP’s almost 50,000, and ended up finishing fourth.
(3) Also, in sheer disregard of the ethics of alliance, the NCP fielded its candidates in at least 10 seats (of which we ended up losing in 4), thus defeating whatever little purpose there was of having this alliance in the first place.
Thus it was the from the moment these three candidates were announced, the BJP’s victory in them had already become a fiat accompli. At the end of an extensive note opposing this alliance written on 25th October 2008, my father observed: “in view of the foregoing, it is my considered view- as indeed the overwhelming opinion among most grassroots Congresspersons in the state- that there is absolutely no need to enter into any alliance with any party in Chhattisgarh. If we do not contest all the 90 seats ourselves, and BJP contests all 90, it will send a message of weakness and acceptance of defeat even before the beginning of the battle.”
D. DELAY IN TICKET ALLOCATION
The fourth factor is not exclusive to Chhattisgarh; it is systemic in the way our party is run all over the country. Despite the explicit wish of the party High Command that tickets be decided at least two months in advance, they were announced only at the very last instance. It took almost 50 days- and nights- of endless & mostly pointless rounds of meetings to reach that decision (which means that we averaged about 15 hours deliberating over each seat!).
Even more disturbingly, since the entire party structure- state leaders, ticket aspirants and their supporters from all the 90 seats of the state- was at Delhi for this entire duration, we had more or less left the field empty for the BJP at this most critical juncture when elections to the state assembly had already been notified.
Our candidates, already exhausted with having to fight such a procrastinated battle for their respective tickets, had less than 12 days to campaign. The BJP meanwhile had engaged no less than eight helicopters, which were busy touring every nook and corner of the state with their star-campaigners and almost the entire national executive of that party, while our people were sulking away in the cold Delhi winter. In my opinion, this is a scenario straight out of Kafka!
E. THE ABJ POLICY
Last but not the least, I hold the “ABJ” Policy responsible. This Policy was instituted exactly five years ago in the aftermath of our defeat in December 2003 primarily at the behest of a senior leader from Durg (whose own electoral ability or lack thereof is not in doubt); it continues unabated to this day.
Put simply, the ABJ Policy implies that all positions in the party in Chhattisgarh should be given to Anybody but Jogi (hence, ABJ): consequently, my father, or for that matter, anyone perceived to be aligned with him, were all denied positions at the block, district and state levels of the party structure. Even after being elected as the sole Congress MP from the state in 2004, he wasn’t permitted to have even one BCC president of his choice, even in his own Lok Sabha constituency. Also, as the lone Lok Sabha MP of the party from Chhattisgarh, he found no place in the Union. As if this wasn’t enough, in order to destroy him completely, I was hounded into jail by the CBI, a Central Government agency at a time when our party was in power in the Centre; also, frivolous cases against him were registered. (Thankfully, none of these have stood the test of the Judiciary.)
The Congress’ impressive victories in the Kota (2006) and Rajnandgaon bye-elections (2007), for which he was given the main responsibility, and its shameful defeats in Khairagarh, Malkharoda and Keshkal bye-elections (2007), from which he was kept out deliberately, also did precious little to change this Policy. In the ticket selection process, he was systematically excluded from the deliberations of both the Screening Committee as well as the Central Election Committee at Delhi despite repeated requests while those with little or no understanding of the state were asked to take vital decisions.
The most obvious display of the ABJ Policy came when despite an overwhelming majority of MLAs having signed a document urging his election as Leader of the Congress Legislative Party (CLP), he was totally ignored; and as if that were not enough, a person he had been repeatedly asking be made CLP Leader for the past five years was appointed only when- and perhaps because- he had publicly distanced himself from my father. It should be clear to any political observer that the purpose of the ABJ Policy is to create an alternative leadership to ‘Jogi’ by systematically weakening his influence within the party.
Not to put too fine a point, it has failed to fulfill this purpose: those ‘alternatives’ entrusted with the task of running the party for the past five years have ended up ruining it; not only that, these so-called leaders & their progenies have all failed to win their own elections primarily because of a widespread impression prevalent not only among party workers but also the public that by being hand-in-glove with the state government, they had failed in their duty as an effective Opposition. (I can’t help observing that had they won, we would very well be in government.) The only thing they’ve to say in their defense is that ‘Jogi’- and not they themselves- is to be held responsible.
If that were indeed the case, then there is no reason why certain leaders who now openly accuse my father for their- and the party’s- defeat would have put-up the following posters (& appeals) during their campaigns:
I would like to ask them why he is sole state leader to grace their posters when- as they say- he is indeed so “unpopular”. More than anything else, this is evidence of a most shameless sort of hypocrisy, one that combines ingratitude & over-ambition with a total dearth of talent & the lowest kind of intellect.
Now, with due modesty, my father may be one of the more popular leaders of the state but I do not think that he is so powerful as to pinpoint who should win & who shouldn’t- more so in areas where he didn’t once visit. Indeed, if this is the case (which I assure you is not), then there can be no surer, or better, argument for reversing the ABJ Policy.
Moreover, even admitting for the sake of argument that he did cause the defeat of his detractors, the question that begs to be asked of them is this: how many persons (including themselves) did they help win? Despite being (so-called) “state leaders”, not one of them left their respective constituencies for a single day to campaign for anyone else, and still lost; in contrast, my father (or for that matter, anyone from my family) didn’t go once to his constituency and yet ended up winning that seat with the highest margin in all of the six states that went to polls this winter. One should also not forget that the only office he occupied during these past five years was that of MP from Mahasamund: the Congress won each and every seat in both the districts of this Lok Sabha (Dhamtari & Mahasamund) as well as Rajim, all of which were previously held by the BJP. The above illustrations put to rest the question of my father’s popularity.
Yet another undeniable fact is that he took more public meetings & did more road shows than any other leader (both from the Congress as well as the BJP) in Chhattisgarh: in less than fourteen days, he addressed 186 meetings in 74 of the 87 constituencies where his party’s candidates contested, traveling more than 18 hours a day on a wheelchair. He did all this against doctors’ advice, and at great cost to his health: we recently spent twenty days at the Escorts & Apollo hospitals in Delhi to ensure that he is able to resume his normal life; suffice it to say that when the doctors saw his medical reports, they were surprised that he was still alive. His sole objective in life was to see that the Congress forms its government in Chhattisgarh, and without doubt, he gave it his all.
If, despite all this, these so-called leaders blame him for their own follies, then frankly, I would like to remind them of something Benjamin Franklin presciently told his compatriots during the American War of Independence: “we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
The Mandate of Chhattisgarh is in no way a total rejection of the Congress: we should not for one moment forget that we've fallen barely six seats short of a majority- seats we lost mainly due to our own shortcomings & not due to any fictitious 'chaur-waale baba' wave (which, if it did indeed exist, would surely have led to our complete wipeout). It is clear, therefore, that the People of Chhattisgarh expect us to fulfill the role of a Strong Opposition, one that will hold the Government directly accountable to them for all its acts and omissions. Last time round, we failed miserably in this duty. Let us not let them down this time.
At the same time, we should be aware that the times ahead are not going to be easy for Congresspersons in Chhattisgarh, especially our grassroots workers, several of whom are already being systematically targeted by this state administration with renewed vengeance: in another five years of BJP rule, chances are that there will be no difference between Sarkar (government) and Sangh. So instead of accusing each other publicly, we should now focus on three things primarily: winning the Battle for the Soul of Bastar; getting the Satnamis back into our fold; and respecting people’s mandate as we rebuild our party’s organization in the state. If we don’t, then there is no doubt that we would all be going the way of UP & Bihar, and future generations- our unborn children- will never forgive us.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
इसका हिन्दी अनुवाद यहाँ पढ़े.