Lok Raj Sangathan, Delhi organized a discussion with various political parties and groups, mass organizations, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) and other people’s organizations, on March 24, to discuss ways in which to utilise the campaign for the 15th Lok Sabha elections to advance the movement for people’s empowerment.

Representatives of CPI, Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, Purogami Mahila Sangathan, Akhil Bharatiya Jan Chetna Manch, activists of RWAs and Lok Raj Samitis of various localities, several independent candidates of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections 2007 and Delhi Assembly elections 2008 and activists of other mass organisations actively participated in the discussion.

Welcoming the participants, a member of the All India Council of Lok Raj Sangathan explained the significance of the meeting. Several initiatives are being taken by the people’s forces in different parts of the country, she said, by which they are challenging the domination of the established political parties over the political process. People are increasingly disillusioned with the present situation where they are mere vote banks and have no real political power to take any decisions in the interests of the vast majority. People are getting organized to change this situation. Lok Raj Sangathan welcomes all such initiatives. The aim of the meeting was to facilitate all such initiatives in Delhi to work together and use the occasion of the coming elections to take their message far and wide among the people.

Bijju Nayak, secretary of Lok Raj Sangathan, Delhi read out a statement that has been issued by Lok Raj Sangathan on the eve of the 15th Lok Sabha elections, entitled – ‘Advance the movement for people’s empowerment, to change the course of India!’. Exposing the current political system and process, the statement appeals to citizens to "wrest supreme decision making powers from the hands of a tiny self serving minority" and to "develop, establish and protect a brand new system of State structure based on a new Fundamental Law or Constitution". It boldly puts forward the demand that "A new system of direct democracy and political process must replace the present talk shop parliament with bodies that combine executive and legislative functions. It must ensure the right of every citizen to elect, be elected, right to recall their representatives if found unsuitable and the right to legislate". The statement calls on citizens to utilise the election campaign to escalate the struggle for such a system.

Prakash Rao, all India convener of Lok Raj Sangathan, elaborated on the causes of the present economic crisis and how the government is going all out to safeguard the profits of the big monopoly capitalist houses, while shifting the burden of the crisis on to the backs of the working people. Through numerous examples he showed how terrorism and state terrorism as well as state organised communal violence are used to divide the people and crush their struggles. He put forward the alternative proposed by LRS, that the people in each residential area and workplace, organised in their committees, field candidates selected from amongst themselves and fight for mechanisms to hold the elected representatives accountable before the electorate, to recall candidates if found unsuitable and for the right to initiate legislation in the people’s interests. Only Lok Raj can give a new orientation to the economy, so that fulfilling the people needs becomes the primary aim, not satisfying the greed of the big corporate houses. The role of a political party, he explained, should be that of empowering people to rule themselves, not to grab power for itself, as is the case today.

The candidate for the Delhi Assembly elections 2008, selected by the people of Okhla constituency, Santosh Kumar gave an inspiring call to the youth to uphold the legacy of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his comrades, to come forward and give a fitting reply to the political parties that serve the vested interests, by fielding our own candidates and fighting for political power in the hands of the workers and all the oppressed.

Lokesh Kumar, selected by the Lok Raj Samiti of Harkesh Nagar constituency of South Delhi for the Municipal Corporation elections in 2007, related his experiences of the election campaign. He had signed an affidavit on stamp paper, stating that he would submit to the authority of the people of the constituency to hold him accountable to them and to recall him from his post if he works against their interests. People of the constituency welcomed him everywhere and eagerly discussed the new political process that he advocated. He explained how, deprived of drinking water, sanitation, ration and other basic needs, and with the threat of demolition of their jhuggi-bastis constantly hanging over their heads, workers are forced to run behind one or other of these political parties who make false promises to secure votes and after getting voted into power, do nothing to defend the people’s interests but are only interested in filling their own pockets. The struggle to transform the people’s political support into votes is a difficult one but we must not give up, he declared. Amidst much applause, he proposed the name of Bijju Nayak as candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from South Delhi constituency.

Sajid, representative of Jamat-e-Islami Hind, criticised the present political system and called for unity in action of all the people’s forces. He supported the proposal of Lok Raj Sangathan, of fielding candidates selected by the people. Atibal, independent candidate for the Delhi Assembly elections 2008, from the Tughlakabad constituency, spoke up against the corruption inherent in the electoral process and the need to step up the struggle against it.

Youth leader of the Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha, Anand spoke of how the youth are misled by the political parties. He called on the youth to come forward in large numbers, get organised and fight for political power, to end this poverty and exploitation and build a new society.

Retired academician and social activist, Prof. Jagpal stressed the need to keep our struggle focused on the main enemy, the present political system and process. He put forward his proposals for ensuring the democratic right of all people to elect and be elected, backed with legislation to defend this right.

Renu, an activist of Purogami Mahila Sangathan, held the present system squarely responsible for the exploitation and insecurity that women face. Only when the masses of working women and men have political power can we give a fitting punishment to those who violate the rights and dignity of women but today go unpunished, she said. She enthusiastically supported the call for participation in the elections and the struggle for Lok Raj.

Md. Idris, an activist of the RWA of Nizamuddin area, congratulated LRS for its bold and correct stand. He called for mass mobilisation, for taking these ideas widely among the people. Fateh Singh, independent candidate from Trilokpuri, promised his support for the election campaign of LRS. Activists of Akhil Bharatiya Jan Chetna Manch elaborated their program of organising voters’ councils to ensure free and fair elections.

Shiv, a political activist from Punjab, expressed his support for the initiative of LRS, of fielding candidates selected by the people and intervening actively to bring about a radical change in the political process.

Rounding up the discussion, Prakash Rao emphasised the importance of building Lok Raj samitis in each locality, as organs of empowerment of the people, which would organise the people to innovate a new political process in which they would have the right to select candidates, elect them, hold them accountable, ask for their recall if they betray the people’s agenda, as well as initiate legislation in the people’s interests.

The meeting ended on a positive note, with activists of all the participating organisations eagerly making various plans for bringing forward the people’s agenda in the coming elections and organising joint meetings and actions to carry on the work.

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