Report by our Maharashtra Correspondent
The Maharashtra Committee of the Lok Raj Sangathan has been vigorously conducting meetings and consultations on the theme “Current political situation and the way ahead”. Activists of many people’s organizations have participated enthusiastically in these consultations.
The results of the last Lok Sabha elections had raised many questions in the minds of activists of various organizations as the results were quite different from their expectations and their perceptions of the mood of people. Why the peoples will was not reflected in the election results — this was a question bothering all those who participated in these meetings.
The first discussion was held on 23rd June 2019, during the meeting of the Extended Maharashtra Regional Council of LRS. This was followed by a public meeting in Bhiwandi organised by the local LRS Committee in collaboration with Gulshai E Taiba, Aam Admi Party, Halat Ekta Forum, Movement for Peace and Justice, Lal Bauta Warper and Asanghatit Workers Union, Sahara Samajik Sanghatana, Savitribai Phule Bidi Kamgar Union, Ekta Forum, Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and Anjuman e-Itihadon on 30th June. The Thane Committee of LRS organized a similar meeting in Thane on 27th July in collaboration with the Thane Matdata Jagran Abhiyan. On 18th August, LRS was invited to elaborate on this topic in a meeting organised by the Bharatiya Mahila Federation in Thane for its activists from Thane, Bhiwandi, Kalyan and Mumbai.
In all these meetings the keynote speech by members of LRS was followed by vigorous discussion in which a large number of people participated.
In their keynote speeches, representatives of LRS pointed out to the fact that in the last four or five years, crores of people – workers, peasants, women, youth, adivasis, various professionals and even retired soldiers -had actively come out on the streets to denounce the policies and actions of the government and demand their rights. Demonetisation, GST, privatisation and other economic attacks, passage of various anti-people laws, unbridled attacks on women and people based on caste and religion, communalisation and criminalisation of politics…all these had caused immeasurable harm to the Indian people and had been actively denounced. And yet the BJP returned to power with an even bigger majority! This clearly shows that election results do not reflect the will of the people!
Speakers pointed to the fact that these elections were the costliest ever elections of any country. The corporate houses poured in an immense amount of money to ensure the formation of a majority government at the center that would work in their interests. The media controlled by these corporates whipped up chauvinism and hysteria against Pakistan, and raised every kind of diversion in order to avoid discussion on the burning issues of livelihood and rights of the people. Social media, such as Facebook and Whatsapp was used extensively to influence the minds of the people through targeted messaging. Speakers elaborated on the role played by the US in influencing the outcome of the elections. The outcome has been the formation of a majority government committed to the course of enriching the biggest Indian and foreign corporates by attacking the rights of the people, and strengthening the dangerous Indo US strategic alliance. The people and their concerns were completely marginalized.
The speakers from the LRS elaborated on how the problem was not merely with the recently conducted general elections, but with the political system and process of multi-party representative democracy. It was pointed out that the current electoral system ensures that the parties that represent the economically powerful interests always have a huge advantage in the electoral arena over political parties and organisations which are fighting for the rights of the people. Right from the permanent allocation of symbols to the so-called recognized parties to the manner in which elections are conducted, everything is designed to keep peoples organisations at a massive disadvantage. The parties favoured by the corporates get all the time to spread their venom and lies on government owned media, while the media unabashedly presents these parties as the only alternative for the electorate. The entire system ensures that only parties that loyally defend the interests of the corporate houses have a chance of coming to power.
After the farcical elections are concluded the parties which come to power dance to the tune of their financiers. There is no provision in the existing political system which makes elected representatives answerable to the electorate.
In sum, the political system and process is designed to deprive people of power.
The speakers from LRS raised the question of what needs to be done in order to bring real power in the hands of the people. They pointed to the necessity for fundamental changes in the political system and process, including in the electoral system. The executive must be accountable to the legislature, and the legislature must be accountable to the electorate. The entire election process must be funded by the state and there must be no private funding of elections. The electorate in each constituency must be able to select a list of candidates, one of whom would be elected. Constituency committees in each constituency must work to enable the electorate to select a list of candidates, from which one would be elected. All selected candidates must have equal opportunity to present their program before the electorate. The elected representatives must render periodic accounts of their work to their constituency. The electorate would have the power to recall elected representatives whose work is found unsatisfactory. The electorate should also have the right to initiate legislation, include the right to amend the constitution. All residual power must vest with the electorate. The constituency committees must fulfil the role of enabling the electorate to exercise its rights.
The role of political parties in a political system and process in which people are empowered will be different then the role played by parties like BJP, Congress etc in the present system. In the present system, these parties rule in the name of the people, while the people themselves are completely marginalized from decision making power. In the new system, political parties will have an important role to play of organizing and making the people conscious of their rights, and ensuring that decision making power vests in people’s hands.
These are some of the fundamental political reforms which Lok Raj Sangathan believes are required to bring political power back into the hands of people.
In the discussions that followed it was agreed that while uniting people by working actively for issues which affect them, we must work with the aim of ensuring the empowerment of the people.
After these meetings, the Bhiwandi Committee of LRS, along with many other organisations has taken up a campaign for better roads and health and sanitation facilities in the city. The Bharatiya Mahila Federation agreed that it would participate in the campaigns being conducted by LRS along with other organisations for improved railway services as well as against the privatisation of electricity distribution in the suburbs of Thane.