Assembly Elections 2012
Punjab Mandate : Lessons for the Left  
(as told by Comrade Mangat Ram Pasla, Secretary, CPM Punjab, and Comrade Harkanwal Singh, State Committee member, CPM Punjab)

The Akali Dal-BJP combine bucked the long-established and unbroken trend of anti-incumbency in Punjab polls, and was re-elected to Government. The Akali Dal-BJP Government had a track record of aggressively pursuing neoliberal, anti-people policies, corruption, and broken promises to the poor. It pursued the same policy line as the Congress-UPA Government at the Centre. However, as elections approached, it made some populist gestures, conceding some of the demands raised by agitations of peasants and agricultural labourers. The Akali-BJP combine benefited from infighting within the Congress, and Manpreet Badal’s Punjab People’s Party too denied the Congress the exclusive benefits of the anti-Akali/BJP vote in the Malwa region. 
There was much hype about the Manpreet Badal phenomenon in these elections. Manpreet Badal, aggrieved nephew of the CM Prakash Singh Badal, and former Finance Minister in the Akali Government, developed a rivalry with Sukhbir Badal and broke away to form his PPP. For all his talk of Bhagat Singh, it was hidden from none that his policies as FM had been a carbon copy of those of Manmohan Singh! He had pursued the withdrawal of subsidies and imposition of user charges on electricity, increase in bus fares, sale of government property and cut-backs in social services. Manpreet Badal declared that Bhagat Singh was his inspiration, but that he did not agree with the latter’s ideology!
The Punjab elections witnessed the contest among ruling class formations, between ruling class formations and the fighting Left, and also between two models of Left intervention in elections: one, of riding piggyback on ruling class formations, and the other, of independent left assertion. The results hold lessons for the Left.
The CPIM Punjab and CPI(ML) approached all left parties for a united Left platform, reflecting the spirit of the united struggles of workers and peasants that the State has witnessed. But the CPI and CPI(M) preferred to go for an alliance that bolstered the democratic pretensions of an Akali renegade.   
Manpreet was obviously invoking Bhagat Singh’s anti-imperialist legacy to cloak his own pro-imperialist policies. But the CPI(M) and CPI fell headlong into the trap, taking his demagoguery at face value. They became constituents of the Sajha Morcha (projected as a ‘Third’ Front), projecting Manpreet as the Chief Ministerial candidate. The front included the breakaway Akali Dal (Longowal) faction headed by Surjit Singh Barnala, who has earlier been part of the NDA alliance. Clearly, this alliance was a purely opportunist one – with no ideological principles – neither ‘secularism’, nor opposition to neoliberal policies, nor some history of joint struggles – to anchor it.
The CPI and CPI(M) even went to the unprecedented extent of giving organisational shape to an electoral alliance of this kind, becoming office bearers in a Committee headed by Manpreet Badal as Chairman, formed to run the Sajha Morcha campaign. This is truly unprecedented for a Left party: to make an alliance with a non-Left formation is one thing, but to become office bearers in a formation headed by a bourgeois leader is quite another. And the national leadership’s blessings were with this endeavour: Comrades Prakash Karat and AB Bardhan shared the dais with Surjit Singh Barnala and Manpreet Badal at an election rally.
The case of the Bhoa constituency in Pathankot, too, was revealing. The seat was allocated to the CPI(M), but the PPP insisted that its own nominee would be the candidate. So, an PPP-nominated NRI, Gurdev Dev, contested on the CPI(M) symbol! Needless to say, he spoke not a word about Left politics in his campaign, making it clear he was committed to Manpreet Badal and the PPP instead. At Bhoa, the CPIM Punjab candidate polled 5624 votes, more than double the CPIM candidate’s 2779. 
The CPI and CPI(M) counted on Manpreet Badal becoming CM and forming Government. Along with the Congress, Manpreet too played the religion card, wooing the various Deras for votes. He also spent huge amounts on paid news. But Manpreet Badal turned out to be a damp squib in the election. While he was expected to erode Akali Dal votes, he instead did damage to the Congress, and ended up unwittingly helping the Akali Dal retain power.
The CPM Punjab and CPI(ML) Liberation contested on a shared platform – the Sangharshsheel Khabba Morcha (Fighting Left Front) and a jointly issued manifesto, reflecting the spirit of mass struggles in the elections. The CPI-CPI(M)’s tactics of allying with Manpreet Badal failed badly: neither did the alliance convince Punjab’s voters of its commitment to alternative policies, nor did it benefit the Left or progressive agenda in any way. Instead it reflected an abject surrender of ideology and politics on part of the CPI-CPI(M) in a (failed) bid to share power.

For Left politics and movements, the election results have no room for complacency. The need of the hour is for all forces on the Left to unite and fight on an alternative agenda, challenging the neoliberal policies with struggles on the streets, rather than attempting any unprincipled short-cuts.

Uttar Pradesh

SP Sweeps, and Goons Rear Their Head


Beyond the predictions made by most observers and even its own internal assessments, the Samajwadi Party emerged as the sole pole against the BSP, in a neat reversal of the 2007 mandate. The Congress and Rahul Gandhi had a dismal showing, and the BJP too failed to gain. The media, which had been focused on Rahul Gandhi, discovered a new darling in Akhilesh Yadav, Mulayam’s son who became Chief Minister.
The SP, fully aware that memories of the ‘goondaraj’ which had become the hallmark of its earlier regime had not faded, projected Akhilesh as a young and new face for the party. Akhilesh made the symbolic gesture of refusing to induct DP Yadav, thereby sending a message that the SP’s new leadership had learnt its lessons well. The State’s voters, tired of the corruption and repression of Mayawati’s rule, voted overwhelmingly for the SP.
Certain trends in the UP elections were notable and significant. One of these was the aspirations of youth, for whom employment emerged as an important poll issue. Even during the elections, Employment Exchanges witnessed long queues of people seeking to register themselves. The SP’s last Government had introduced a Rs 500 unemployment allowance, and UP’s unemployed youth were hopeful that an SP Government would repeat this policy.
The new government has immediately announced an unemployment allowance of Rs 1000 (but only those above 35 who have passed Higher Secondary) and laptops for school students (for only those scoring above 75% marks). But the queues at the Employment Exchange are tell-tale signs of simmering anxiety, resentment, and aspirations of unemployed youth. While unemployment allowance for all unemployed above 21 years is an immediate and urgent need, it must be accompanied by a change in policy priorities – away from pro-corporate, pro-rich policies, and towards generating secure and signified employment.    
A closer look also reveals the proliferation of a plethora of smaller parties and fragmentation of votes, even in such a sharply polarised election. This rather under-discussed trend has been emerging over the last decade in UP. Apart from the major players SP, BSP, BJP, Congress, RLD, there were some 14 parties that polled over 1,50,000 votes. Some of these parties (such as TMC, NCP, JDU, LJP) do not really reflect any trend in UP politics but have polled votes by fielding dissidents from main parties and contesting a large number of seats. Kalyan Singh’s party [JKP(R)] and Amar Singh’s party (Rashtriya Lok Manch) may be a temporary phenomenon, but votes polled by parties like Peace Party and Apna Dal which have won seats and those like Mahan Dal, Pragatisheel Manav Samaj Party and Bhartiya Samaj Party which represent caste groups like Kurmis, Kushwahas, Binds or Rajbhars in different regions of UP do represent real life socio-political trends, on however small a scale.
In the wake of the SP’s landslide victory and the emergence of Akhilesh Yadav as the new face of the SP, there is a concerted attempt on the part of many to project the new SP dispensation as not just a replacement of the BSP or a beneficiary of anti-BSP resentment, but as a new regime reflecting UP’s aspirations and prospects for corporate development, akin to regimes led by the likes of Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik or Nitish Kumar. The hype has received rude reality shocks, though, even before Akhilesh Yadav became CM!
As soon as the results were out, SP strongmen began ‘celebrating’ with arson and carnage aimed at Dalit villages. Journalists covering the counting of votes were badly beaten up. During Akhilesh’s swearing-in, the boisterous supporters engaged in fisticuffs and brawls, overturning the very table which Akhilesh had graced a minute ago and uprooting the mike from which Akhilesh had made his first address as CM! Akhilesh might have kept DP Yadav at arm’s length before the elections, but the SP line-up of candidates had its fair share of villains. And to crown it all, the notorious feudal gangster Raja Bhaiyya who won the election as an SP-supported independent candidate has been inducted into Akhilesh’s Cabinet. Instead of being in jail where he belongs, for his criminal acts and feudal atrocities, he is now Jail Minister! Akhilesh dismissed all the serious charges against Raja Bhaiyya as ‘politically motivated.”  

The hype of pro-corporate ‘development’ notwithstanding, what has already begun unfolding from day one of the SP regime, are the ominous signs of assaults on democracy, threats to the dignity of dalits and other oppressed sections, and the continued ascendancy of criminal and feudal politicians.

Neither BJP nor Congress Win Voters’ Confidence

Indresh Maikhuri

The close contest in Uttarakhand is being interpreted by some as a ‘respectable’ showing, rather than an outright rejection of the BJP. The BJP is taking solace by saying that the mandate doesn’t really imply a loss for the BJP, nor an outright win for the Congress. The fact is, however, that the mandate only underlines the lack of enthusiasm the voter in Uttarakhand has towards both the Congress and BJP, and the lack of confidence these parties generate.
The BJP, replacing the corrupt Nishank as CM with Khanduri, contested the elections with the slogan, “Uttarakhand’s compulsion: Khanduri is a necessity.” However, it was apparent that the people of Uttarakhand did not find the BJP’s ‘poster-boy’ Chief Minister Khanduri to be necessary even in his own seat, which he lost by 4000 votes. Not only Khanduri, five Ministers of his Cabinet too lost the elections. Two other Ministers were not fielded at all, apprehending their defeat. So, out of a Cabinet of 12, 8 could not make it back to the Assembly. Clearly, the BJP Government and its Cabinet were almost wholly rejected by the electorate.
At the same time, the Congress with its unfolding scams at the Centre and its history of corruption in the State, could not generate any confidence as an alternative. Apart from the 31 seats won by the Congress, 3 Congress rebels too won elections; the Pawar faction of the Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD) won a seat, and BSP won 3 seats. Congress wooed these others, on condition of getting them Ministerial berths, in order to touch the majority mark.
If the Congress did not inspire enthusiasm, neither did the UKD, whose opportunism has eroded its credibility. In 2002, although the Congress did not need outside support, the UKD supported the ND Tiwari Government for a full five years. In 2007, the UKD supported the BJP Government. After four and a half years, a faction of the UKD withdrew from the Government. Before the elections, this faction spoke of forming a united front with Left and other non-Congress, non-BJP parties, but soon went against its own pronouncements. The one MLA who won from the UKD (P) has joined the Congress Government.  
As soon as the Congress formed Government, it had a virtual rebellion on its hands by its MP and CM aspirant Harish Rawat, with MLAs refusing to attend the oath-taking ceremony and high-voltage drama at Congress HQs in Delhi. Now, the seemingly unmanageable situation seems to have been contained by changing the game from ‘Who’ll be CM” to “Who’ll run the Government?” In the deal finalised now, one Rajya Sabha seat, Assembly speaker, and Party President as well as three ministers in the Cabinet will be from Harish Rawat’s camp. So, while Vijay Bahuguna remains CM, the keys to the government and organisation remain with Harish Rawat.
The rat-race and unseemly tussles for the chair are nothing new in Uttarakhand. In 2000, when BJP’s first Government was formed, Bhagat Singh Koshiari and Nishank had both refused to take oath, in protest against Nityanand Swami being made CM. Soon, the BJP was forced to make Koshiari CM. In two years, Uttarakhand had two CMs and virtually every BJP MLA had been a Minister. In the Congress Government headed by ND Tiwari, too, the tussle between Harish Rawat and Tiwari was on show. With a Court order limiting the number of Ministers to 12 including the CM, Tiwari managed power-hungry Congress MLAs by handing out red-light cars to more than 250 people! In the last BJP Government, too, the Khanduri-Nishank tussle was a constant feature, with sometimes one on top and sometimes the other.
In Uttarakhand, a look at the assets of MLAs from Congress, BJP, UKD and BSP between 2007-2012 shows that those who become MLAs or Ministers manage a 100%, 500% and even 1200% increase in wealth! In the 70-member Assembly, 33 are ‘crore-patis’. In this race to amass wealth and in the all-consuming tussle to be Minister/CM, where is the time to attend to the problems of the people of the State?
The new CM Vijay Bahuguna is a cousin of the former BJP CM Khanduri. Not just Bahuguna and Khanduri, actually the Congress and BJP too are close cousins when it comes to corruption and hunger for power, with scant concern for people’s rights and needs.

In the Assembly elections this time, the three Left parties, CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML) had seat adjustments with each other. The Left in the state needs to build united struggles on people’s issues, firmly challenging the ruling parties which consider the State to be their fiefdom.

CPI(ML)/AILC Performance in Assembly Elections

Punjab: CPI(ML) and CPM Punjab had put up respectively 7 and 6 candidates in Punjab. The 7 candidates of CPI(ML) polled approximately 14,000 votes while the 6 candidates of CPM Punjab polled around 18,000 votes. The highest vote polled by CPI(ML) candidate has been approximately 4,000 from Mansa, while CPM Punjab nominee from Bhoa polled more than 5,500 votes. CPI and CPI(M) had contested these elections as junior partners of the Punjab People’s Party led by former Akali Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Total votes polled by the 9 candidates of CPI(M) have been above 21,000 while the CPI polled more than  100,000 votes by fielding 14 candidates.
Uttarakhand: CPI(ML) had fielded 5 candidates in Uttarakhand – the party had seat adjustments with the CPI and CPI(M) (the latter however did not have complete adjustments among themselves). Uttarakhand Assembly seats are smaller than UP seats (3 seats in Uttarakhand are roughly equivalent to one Assembly seat in UP). Here, the highest vote polled by CPI(ML) has been close to 2,000 from Dharchula in Pithoragarh district.
Uttar Pradesh: In UP, the party had put up 41 candidates in all, and total votes added up to a little above 50,000. The highest vote polled was more than 5,600 (RYA National President Comrade Salim finished fifth from Mirzapur seat, ahead of the Congress candidate).

In all these three states votes showed a very slight overall increase from the 2007 level. While votes generally improved almost everywhere in Punjab and Uttarakhand, UP witnessed a drop in votes in several constituencies despite recording an overall increase of 10,000 votes.