Call of Lok Raj Sangathan on the occasion of the Elections to the Seventeenth Lok Sabha, 3 April, 2019

The 2019 General elections have been scheduled from 11th April to 19th May. With an estimated 875 million voters, these elections are being projected as the biggest democratic exercise in the world.

These elections are taking place in the backdrop of vigorous struggle of all sections of our people for their rights. People have been incessantly demanding solutions to their most burning problems. They are demanding water supply, transportation, health care, schools and other basic necessities required for a dignified living. Peasants are agitating for guaranteed state procurement and remunerative prices for their produce, one-time loan waiver and a crop insurance system that actually protects them against the vagaries of nature. Cotton and sugarcane farmers are agitating against the refusal of mill owners to pay them their dues. Workers are demanding guaranteed minimum wages, security of livelihood and an end to contract labor. Women are demanding equal wages for equal work and security at the workplace, in public spaces and at home. Youth are fighting for education and jobs.

People are opposing anarchy and violence. They are demanding an end to state sponsored violence and terror. They are demanding an end to caste oppression and discrimination. Religious communities which are facing persecution for their beliefs, their dress or food habits are demanding an end to this persecution. Tribal and forest communities who are enraged by the recent Supreme Court order depriving lakhs of them of their rightful habitat, are demanding that the Indian State fulfill its promises under the Forest Rights Act. These are some of the major issues our people are agitated about at this time.

The experience of people with the current BJP government, as well as the Congress led governments of the past, shows that people cannot expect these two parties to address their concerns. The track record of other parties which have run governments in the states, is not any different. In the current elections, BJP and Congress are once again advancing alluring slogans to deceive our people, such as “Namumkin ko Mumkin”, and “surgical strike on poverty”. However, the experience of our people is that when in power, they have always worked to enrich the biggest corporate houses. They have never worked to defend the people’s interests. On the contrary, they have always worked to attack the people’s rights, and to wreck the unity of our people.

Thousands of crores of rupees are being poured into the coffers of the BJP, Congress Party and other such parties by the corporate houses. The corporate media are working overtime to carry out propaganda for these parties. Spokespersons of various parties are publicly spewing the worst kind of communal propaganda and jingoism, openly flouting every rule, and getting away scot-free. They are openly inflaming passions on the basis of religion, and caste.

Throughout the country, people are disgusted with this political process which is completely dominated by such parties.

Hundreds of activists of people’s organisations that have been fighting for the rights of the people, are coming forward as candidates in these elections, to challenge the status quo. They are taking up the concerns of the people – unemployment, farmers’ distress, the denial of human rights such as drinking water, toilets, ration card, accessible roads, affordable quality education and health care, state organised communal and targeted violence, state terror, the continuing atrocities against Dalits and tribal communities, the increasing violence against women, the use of brute armed force to crush the struggles of the people of Kashmir, Manipur, and other states for their rights, and the violation of the right to conscience and the right to express one’s opinion. They are demanding that the people’s concerns should occupy the centre-stage. Many such organisations are demanding that people should have the sovereign power to take decisions that affect their lives and that elected representatives should be answerable to the electorate.
Lok Raj Sangathan gives its whole-hearted support to all these candidates and their organisations. They are representing the aspirations of our people for an alternative political system and process in which people will occupy the centre-stage and ensure prosperity and security to all.

The candidates who are trying to bring the agenda of people onto center stage in these elections are no doubt facing an uphill battle. The entire 17th Lok Sabha Elections are being built up by the big corporate houses and their media, as the “big fight” between the BJP and the Congress Party. Each day in the run-up to the elections is witness to vicious competition between these two parties, on who can fool the people better through promises of various welfare schemes, on who has a greater track record of dividing the people on communal and caste lines, on who is more “nationalist” and warmongering and can give a “better reply to Pakistan”. There is no discussion on why the concerns of the people have never been addressed all these years, irrespective of which party has been in charge of the executive. The need for a system and process that actually empowers the people does not figure anywhere in this narrative.   

With massive money, muscle and media power, the big corporate houses are trying to make sure that parties and political organisations which represent the interests of the people are completely marginalized in the electoral arena. Candidates of political parties backed by the corporate houses have been given a head start by offering them media time and a monopoly over permanent symbols. The monopoly controlled media of is orchestrating the electoral debate into divisive and jingoist issues. Various political parties are inflaming sectarian passions on the basis of religion, caste, region, and language to line up people behind themselves and destroy the united struggle of people for their rights.

There is legitimate concern amongst people that as has happened many times in the past, numerous methods of rigging of elections will be deployed in order to  bring to power a government best suited to implement the agenda of the corporate houses.
A false impression is created that elections are a sign of democracy, that through elections people decide who should rule and how society is to be ruled. In reality, the present system is democratic only in name. It is actually a dictatorship exercised by a tiny minority, headed by big capitalist corporations, Indian and foreign. It is this minority which is making all the important public decisions. The vast majority of people are completely excluded from the decision-making process. How else can one explain that it is possible for the government to adopt policies such as privatisation of profit-making public enterprises or demonetisation, or enact draconian laws, that flagrantly violate the rights and interests of people?

The Indian and foreign monopoly corporate houses use elections in their own narrow interest.  When one of their trusted parties gets discredited, they use elections to replace it by another of their trusted parties.  

The party dominated system of governance and its political process are designed to exclude the vast majority of people.  People are made to choose between candidates who are selected behind their backs by rival parties of vested interests. They have no control over their elected representatives.  The elected legislative body has virtually no control over the decisions and actions of the executive.

Lok Raj Sangathan believes that for people to be truly sovereign, we need a thoroughgoing transformation of political power. Instead of political power being an instrument of rule of a tiny minority of super-rich over the people, it must become the instrument in the hands of the people to govern themselves. When people have political power, they will be able to ensure that prosperity and protection is provided to all, irrespective of their religion, language, caste, gender, region etc. They will be able to ensure that human rights are guaranteed and enforceable, including the right to follow one’s beliefs without fear of persecution.

We need to fight for a fundamental change in the political system and electoral process, so as to empower the people.  

The executive must be accountable to the elected legislative body and the legislators must be accountable to the people.

People must be able to select their candidates. This cannot be left in the hands of the high command of parties backed by the big corporates.  All organisations of the people, not just political parties but also workers’ unions, farmers’ associations, women’s organisations and sangharsh samitis must have the right to nominate candidates for election.  All selected candidates must be given equal time and opportunity to propagate their views.  The State must finance the entire process and not permit any other election funding, either by the individual candidates or by political parties.

The electorate must have the right to hold elected representatives to account and to recall them at any time. They must have the right to propose laws and policy changes and to approve major decisions through referendum.

Constituency committees must be established to ensure that people can exercise their right to select and elect their representatives, the right to recall and the right to initiate legislation.

The role of political parties needs to be redefined.  They must work to keep the people in power and not usurp power to rule in the people’s name.

This is the program for political power in the hands of people, for people’s empowerment. Lok Raj Sangathan calls upon people and their organisations to use the coming elections to advance the program of people’s empowerment. They must select and elect from amongst their midst, those who have a proven track record of fighting for the rights of the people. They must demand that those elected must render periodic accounts to the people.

Let us campaign and vote for people’s candidates!
Let us break the stranglehold of the parties of the super-rich!
Let us defeat all forces which are engaged in diverting and dividing the people, so as to preserve the existing unjust system of rule!
Let us build and strengthen our political unity, with the aim of empowering the people!  
Let us advance the movement for Lok Raj!

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