“Poore chunav ka apaharan ho raha hai. Phele toh booth-capturing hoti thi, chhote gunde hote thhe — do booth capture kar li, dus booth capture kar liye. Ab toh poore desh ke chunav ko capture kiya ja raha hai! (The whole election is being captured. Earlier small-time goons would capture two or ten booths. Now the whole country’s election is being captured!)” exclaimed political activist Yogendra Yadav.
Yadav emphasised on the need to make the upcoming Lok Sabha polls about the real issues in a press conference at the Constitution Club in New Delhi on Monday, March 18. He was accompanied by various civil society group members and activists like former IAS officer Harsh Mander, VM Singh of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), Hannan Mollah of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), among others. They had one unified message: “Desh Mera, Vote Mera, Mudda Mera (my country, my vote, my issues)”.
These individuals are a part of a campaign which will be launched on March 23 and aims to bring together over two dozen nationwide networks and coalitions that comprise of more than 600 civil society organisations, peoples’ movements and groups. The launch date is significant. It marked the official end of the Indira Gandhi-imposed Emergency that lasted from 1975 to 1977; it is also remembered as Shaheed Diwas, the death anniversaries of Indian revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru. However, March 23 in 2019 will neither be a sombre occasion nor a joyous one; the activists will be on a mission. From Tinsukia in Assam to Nandurbar in Maharashtra, the day carries the ambition to organise more than a thousand events across the nation in the form of pad-yatras, human chains and rallies.
The goal? To make the electorate more aware. Aware of glaring holes in policy, of rising unemployment, of the agrarian distress, of the dilution of the RTI Act, of growing communal disparities. The aim is to make the people — the building blocks of democracy — question the existing Bharatiya Janata Party regime about their failures. It is also to make the next government aware that they are answerable to the people.
Hannan Mollah of the AIKS called the ruling dispensation a government of traitors. Speaking to the press, the former eight-term MP said, “It (the BJP government) has betrayed the farmers. It has betrayed the youth. It has betrayed women. It has betrayed Adivasis.” He added that the present government had not just gone back on all the promises it made; it aided only its “corporate friends”.
Mollah spoke about the agrarian distress and added that any government that is not working for the farmers will be voted out of power. “Jo kisan virodhi hai, saare kisan usko ukhaad fenko. Gaddar ka jagah narak mein hai. Gaddar ka jagah desh mein nahi hona chahiye, (Whoever opposes farmers, farmers should throw him away. A traitor’s place is in hell, not in our country)” he said.
An important question that arises here: Is merely making people aware of the right issues enough, especially in the eleventh hour? The congregation of activists and organisations under the banner of “Desh Mera, Vote Mera, Mudda Mera” belong to a broad spectrum of political ideologies, parties and beliefs. But together they represent no one in particular. Pointing towards the wrongs of the BJP regime is only one part of the battle.
When asked about the efficacy of such a move, especially when the campaign does not direct the masses towards a particular party, Yogendra Yadav told NewsCentral24x7, “People will have to vote, and they have to make up their mind. Our contribution to that activity in this particular forum is limited — to say these are the issues and these are the facts. of course, someone has to take it beyond. Someone has to convert it into who to vote for and who not to vote for. That is the job of the political parties that are contesting the elections.”
He admitted, however, that this is not enough. “This is only the first step. Someone else has to take the second step. But it is very important in a democracy for lots of organisations to perform their limited role,” said Yadav.