Statement of Lok Raj Sangathan on the occasion of the Elections to the Tamilnadu Assembly, 7 April, 2021
The people of Tamilnadu have voted yesterday in the Assembly polls to elect the next state government. There were a number of options to choose from, ranging from the two main fronts led by the AIADMK and DMK respectively and several other alliances and independent candidates. Election results will be announced on May 2.
While awaiting the result, the voters of Tamilnadu would be definitely reflecting on the current situation in the state. Over the past many years, the living conditions of the people have deteriorated, with the COVID pandemic further affecting the lives and livelihood of millions of people. Demonetisation, imposition of GST, and lockouts due to the COVID epidemic have affected the Tamil people in wave after wave.
The entire automobile and accessories sector has been severely affected and lakhs of workers thrown out of jobs. Many protests have been taking place in the state. When the people of Thoothukudi came out on the streets demanding the closure of the Sterlite factory, they were brutally attacked and 14 people were killed in police firing. The AIADMK government has gone ahead with the 8-lane Salem-Chennai highway and the methane project in spite of angry protests against land acquisition and adverse impact on environment. Sexual crimes have been on the rise and certain areas of the state such as Pollachi have become a hub for ensnaring vulnerable women into the sex trade. Caste atrocities continued unabated, and state terror has been unleashed in areas such as Sattankulam.
Peasants are facing ruin because the Central and State Governments have refused to provide them guaranteed minimum support prices. The domination of agricultural monopolies and practices such as contract farming and futures trading in agricultural commodities have pushed them into indebtedness. Even when severe cyclones battered the state, the government denied them compensation to save them from their plight. The three agricultural bills that the Central Government has passed in order to ensure the domination of agricultural trading monopolies have further undermined the livelihoods of peasants already reeling under heavy debts. By supporting the acts of the Central Government to close down ration shops and to withdraw supply of free electricity, the AIADMK government is destroying agriculture in the state. The average farm land holding in the state is already much lower than the national average. Farmers in the state have been repeatedly subjected to droughts and cyclones over the past years. Relief measures have been scanty in the past. Demands for waiver of loans of distressed farmers have fell on deaf ears.
A study by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) revealed that during the height of the COVID crisis, Tamil Nadu’s unemployment rate increased 43.5 percentage points, rising to 49.8% in Apr 2020, as against the national rate of 23.5%. Lakhs of migrant workers had to return to their home state. The state is among the most indebted states, with the current public debt rising to 4.85 lakh crores. All these issues reflect the concerns of the people of the state.
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, the continuing atrocities against Dalits, the increasing violence against women, 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 take sovereign power in their hands in order to take decisions that affect their lives and that elected representatives should be answerable to the electorate. A wide discussion on political and electoral reforms has also been going on including issues such as state funding of elections, accountability of political parties, etc.
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 highlight the problems of people in these elections are no doubt facing an uphill battle. The entire election campaign is being portrayed as a campaign between pro-BJP and anti-BJP forces with the real concerns of the people of the state getting washed out under the adversarial propaganda of the two main fronts. The state has emerged as the highest spender in online digital media with the two main fronts splurging on advertising wars.
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 has been orchestrating the electoral debate into divisive and jingoist issues. Various political parties are inflaming sectarian passions on the basis of caste, 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. The vast majority of people are completely excluded from the decision-making process. How else can one explain the fact that it has been possible for the ruling AIADMK government to adopt anti-people policies and flagrantly violate the rights and interests of people? Previous elections have not made any difference to the lives of people in the state. The AIADMK and DMK have been taking turns over the past 50 years and more in ruling the state. But the gap between the rich and poor has only been widening all these years. The accusations that these parties have thrown at each other, of corruption, nepotism and anti-people policies, have all been proved to be true. If Tamilnadu shows better education and health indicators compared to other Indian states, it is due to the tireless efforts of people’s organisations and not due to the political parties of the status quo. What elections achieve is it to resolve the internal contradictions of the ruling class periodically and put in place a manager whom they trust to advance their interests.
The current political process is 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. This is true of Tamilnadu as much as the rest of India.
Lok Raj Sangathan believes that for people to be truly sovereign, there is a need for 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.
Irrespective of the results of the elections, Lok Raj Sangathan calls upon people and their organisations to continue 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. The only to move forward is to build a people’s alternative and break the stranglehold of the parties of the status quo over the political process.