CPI(ML) at the Hustings in Jharkhand

Nine years since Jharkhand achieved statehood, elections are on for the second time to the Jharkhand Assembly.

In the past nine years, Jharkhand’s ruling politicians have made their fortunes. While former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda stands implicated in a massive scam involving huge commissions for mining contracts, money-laundering and loot of state funds for welfare schemes, it is clear that Koda is no exception. Koda clearly had links with several top politicians of major ruling class parties including Congress and RJD. Most Jharkhand politicians multiplied their wealth several times over in the past nine years.

This state of affairs is a comment on the how, since Jharkhand achieved statehood, ruling class parties and corrupt and opportunist politicians have used political power for all-round loot to line their pockets. Hoarders and blackmarketeers have a field day; meanwhile Jharkhand’s adivasi poor – in the name of whom the state was formed – die of starvation. People like Turia Munda, denied wages for NREGA work, commit suicide; 100 MoUs were signed, which if honoured would require the handover of 2 lakh acres of land to corporations; activists challenging corruption in NREGA and PDS have been killed or jailed; adivasis resisting land grab have been killed in police firing (the most recent incident being the firing at Kathikund, when Shibu Soren was CM). Land laws intended to protect adivasis have been flouted openly and feudal domination continues, with 43% of people owning just 4% of land, while 8% own 41% of land. Under the Forest Rights Act, 18380 people have claimed pattas; but only 1739 have actually had their claims settled, the rest are still pending. Panchayat elections under PESA have been entangled in litigation and stalled indefinitely. Ordinary Jharkhandis are forced to migrate to survive. Existing industries are sick and dying, and labour has been largely contractualised and casualised. Sponge iron, cement, asbestos and coal factories have polluted and devastated agricultural land as well as rural health, and while villages go thirsty, corporates guzzle water.

The Congress-UPA, BJP-NDA as well as other ruling class parties like Babulal Marandi’s JVM are eager to disclaim all responsibility for the Koda hawala scam, suggesting that it is only small/regional parties and ‘independent’ MLAs who are responsible for corruption. For instance, Sonia Gandhi, addressing a poll rally, has declared that only the Congress can curb corruption. It must be remembered, however, that Koda has enjoyed plum ministerial posts in every single Government in Jharkhand – including as Panchayati Raj Minister in the BJP Government headed by Marandi; as Minister of Mines and Geology in the BJP Government headed by Arjun Munda; and finally as Chief Minister supported by the Congress and the UPA. In a sense, Koda is the thread of continuity linking every Jharkhand government in the past nine years. Neither Congress and its UPA partners (RJD, JMM) nor BJP-NDA nor Babulal Marandi can therefore shrug off the taint of the Koda scam – they have all colluded in this brazen loot and corruption.

In the upcoming Jharkhand Assembly polls, the Congress has forged an alliance with Babulal Marandi’s JVM. The latter, who had been making assertions of emerging as an ‘alternative’ force in Jharkhand politics, contesting 81 seats, surprised observers by settling for a mere 19 seats. This climb-down has fuelled speculation about what hold (in the wake of the Koda expose) the Congress might possibly have over the JVM. With other UPA partners like the RJD and JMM breaking with the Congress in Jharkhand, the latter is trying to project the JVM as a new-found ‘secular’ ally: seeking to efface Babulal Marandi’s history as a Chief Minister in a BJP-led regime.

Unfortunately, the CPI and CPI(M) have preferred to ally with the RJD rather than present a united Left along with the CPI(ML) as a robust opposition to the parties that have shared in the plunder of the State.

Patronage and institutionalisation of corporate loot and corruption by the entire Jharkhand political mainstream is the central issue in the Jharkhand elections. If Madhu Koda represents one kind of trajectory – of no-holds-barred corruption in return for facilitating corporate loot of the State’s resources – of a single MLA in 9 years of Jharkhand politics, it is worth recalling that Mahendra Singh represented another, very different trajectory: one in which he was the lone bold voice of opposition in the Assembly, whom the state sought to silence by murder. But the CPI(ML) has continued to uphold that lustrous legacy and the whole of Jharkhand knows that the lone vote against the confidence motion moved by the Koda government had come from the lone CPI(ML) MLA Vinod Singh.

In the Jharkhand Assembly Polls, the CPI(ML) is determined to give voice to the people’s outrage at the wholesale plunder and corruption and aspirations for livelihood and democracy.

CPI(ML)’s Charter for Struggle – Within and Outside the Assembly

1. A judicial tribunal to investigate all aspects of the Koda scam – bringing all Jharkhand governments and ministers till date under the scanner.

2. Value-based royalty on Jharkhand’s mineral resources: As things stand, there is a mere 1-2% royalty on the state’s mineral resources. According to the data released by the Ministry for Mines in 2006-07, Rs 217.17 crore worth of iron ore was extracted by mining companies from Jharkhand, while the state got a mere Rs 56 crore as royalty. The same must be the case with other minerals too. The Anwarul Huda Committee had, in 2006, recommended that a value-based royalty be imposed on minerals, so that mineral wealth may benefit the people rather than swelling corporate profits.

3. A comprehensive Development Policy: In the name of a ‘development’ policy, all Jharkhand has got has been a policy for displacement, rehabilitation and resettlement, and even the latter is implemented only in the breach. The first principle for a Development Policy must be that no industry or project be set up without ensuring the participation of the local people in the decision. Such a policy should be drawn up in consultation with environmental groups.

4. Holding of Panchayat Polls under PESA: panchayat permission must be a must in scheduled areas for all land acquisition for industries and projects, or issuing of mining leases.

5. Full-fledged implementation of the Forest Rights Act

6. A Stop to the Privatisation of PSUs; secure jobs instead of contractualised ones; social security for unorganised sector workers

7. Comprehensive Land Reform: redistribution of ceiling-surplus, gair mazarua, faasil and bhoodan lands among the landless

8. BPL cards for all the poor: food grain and kerosene at Rs 2 a kg/litre to all BPL card-holders, free food grain in drought-hit areas

9. Action against hoarders, middlemen and blackmarketeers

10. Promotion of Jharkhand’s languages and cultural forms

CPI(ML) in the Jharkhand Elections

CPI(ML) is contesting 35 of the 81 seats in the Assembly elections.
Of the 35 candidates, 12 are from among STs (11 seats are ST seats), 5 are SC seats, and 5 of the candidates are women. Most of the candidates are young, with more than 50% of the candidates being under 40 years of age.

The Palamu range, where the party is contesting 6 seats (Garhwa, Bhavnathpur, Panki, Manika(ST), Bishrampur and Chhatarpur (SC)), is notorious for feudal scamsters across parties ruling the roost in politics. This region has also long been notorious for extreme poverty and hunger. The CPI(ML) assertion here has been steadily growing in strength, in powerful struggles on the question of NREGA, against corrupt ration dealers and blackmarketeers, as well as land struggles and anti-feudal struggles. B N Singh, a popular CPI(ML) peasant leader here, has been in jail since 2003, falsely implicated and convicted by a lower court in a murder case. In the last Assembly election he had contested from jail and finished second in Panki. In the last Lok Sabha polls, CPI(ML) nominee led in Panki segment while polling a close second (by 100 votes) in the Manika assembly segment. The CPI(ML) has a growing popular base in the entire Palamu region, especially in Garhwa district; in Bhavnathpur, poor Muslims are getting increasingly involved in struggles led by the Party.

The CPI(ML) is also contesting all 6 of the Assembly segments of the Koderma Lok Sabha constituency – Gandey, Jamua(SC), Bagodar, Dhanwar, Barkattha and Koderma. The candidate from the Bagodar seat is the sitting MLA Vinod Singh. CPI(ML) has led powerful struggles in this region against blackmarketeers, corruption in NREGA wages and police atrocities.

CPI(ML) is also contesting the Mandu seat, which has a rural mass base as well as industrial workers. Here, a section of the JMM mass base has joined our party. Youth in particular, as well as unorganised coal workers have been a prominent presence in the party mobilisations here. The MCC led by AK Roy has extended support to the CPI(ML) in this seat (CPI(ML) is supporting the MCC at Nirsa and Sindri in Dhanbad district).

We are contesting the Gomia constituency in Bokaro, which is also a part-rural, part-colliery region. Our candidate here is Baleshwar Gope, a CMWU leader who is also a popular leader of struggles in the rural areas. We are also contesting another seat in Bokaro district – Chandankyari – for the first time. Our work here began with a struggle against police atrocities and a custodial death. Here, we are leading a struggle against fraudulent land acquisition (at a very low rate, far below the present market value) for steel plants. We are also contesting Dhanbad, where our candidate is a tribal woman leader, Kiran Hembrom; Giridih town (Israpheel Ansari); and Barhi and Barkagaon in Hazaribagh district (Javed Islam and Qayamuddin Ansari respectively).

In the Ranchi-Gumla belt, we are contesting Tamar, Mandar, Lohardaga, as well as Bishunpur and Simdega (all ST seats). This is the bauxite mining range, where, in spite of demands, there is no aluminium factory; so all the bauxite resources are mined out but no employment is generated for local labourers. Gumla is not connected to the rail network, and this region witnesses heavy outmigration, especially that of women as domestic workers. Recently, the party had held a padyatra (march on foot) from Gumla to Ranchi, highlighting a range of demands including local employment generation, and women had participated in large numbers.

We are also contesting Chakradharpur and Manoharpur (both ST seats); this is the mineral-rich ‘Madhu Koda territory’. In contrast to the corrupt tribal leadership represented by Koda, sections of the JMM which had participated in anti-usury struggles and had genuine anti-feudal aspirations have joined the CPI(ML). Our candidate from Chakradharpur is Bahadur Oraon, ex-MLA from the JMM, now a CC Member of our party, who has been leading mass struggles on a range of issues. He was recently arrested by the police when leading a struggle to demand that the state be declared drought-affected; his arrest had sparked off much resentment that such a senior leader of the Jharkhand separate statehood movement should be arrested while those who have betrayed Jharkhand for private profit make merry.

In the Santhal Pargana region, we are contesting the seats of Dumka, Nala, Deoghar, Jarmundi, and Shikaripara. In this region, we are leading agrarian struggles – primarily over sharecroppers’ rights and tribal land rights.

The party’s election campaign is underway already, with a string of pre-nomination election meetings addressed by party General Secretary Comrade Dipankar Bhattacharya at many places, including Dhanwar, Bagodar, Jamua, Gandey, Koderma, Mandu, Chakradharpur, Bishunpur, Panki and Bhavnathpur constituencies. Most of these election meetings have been marked by massive attendance and enthusiastic response.

CPI(ML) Candidates:

1. Dhanbad – Kiran Hembrom (F)

2. Jharia – Bhajohri Mahto

3. Devghar – Rakhi Devi (F)

4. Podaiyyahaat – Motilal Bhagat

5. Nala – Jagat Mandal

6. Dumka – Rameshwar Soren

7. Shikaripada – Paltan Hansda

8. Jarmundi – Sahdev Prasad Yadav

9. Tamar (ST) – Sukhdev Munda

10. Mandar (ST) – Budhva Oraon

11. Gomia – Baleshwar Gope

12. Gandey – Rajesh Yadav

13. Giridih – Israpheel Ansari

14. Barkattha – Basudev Yadav

15. Barhi – Javed Islam

16. Badkagaon – Qayamuddin Ansari

17. Mandu – Chandranathbhai Patel

18. Koderma – Parmeshwar Mahto

19. Chandankyari (SC) – Janardan Harijan

20. Dhanwar – Rajkumar Yadav

21. Bagodar – Vinod Kumar Singh

22. Jamua (SC) – Satyanarayan Das

23. Manoharpur (ST) – Durga Sundi

24. Chakradharpur (ST) – Bahadur Oraon

25. Bishunpur (ST) – Suresh Bhagat

26. Simdega (ST) – Birjanand Oraon

27. Kolebira (ST) – Shyamsundar Badaik

28. Lohardaga (ST) – Ashamani Oraon (F)

29. Garhwa – Kalicharan Mehta

30. Bhavnathpur – Sogra Begum (F)

31. Panki – Kavita Singh (F)

32. Vishrampur – Anwar Ansari

33. Manika (ST) – Kanhai Singh

34. Chatarpur (SC) – Ramraj Paswan

35. Chatra (SC) – Pramod Ram

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