Notes From the Election Campaign at Agiaon

Before the de-limitation exercise in 2010, large parts of what is today the Agiaon Assembly Constituency in Bhojpur were part of Sahar constituency which was represented for three consecutive terms by the legendary leader of Bhojpur, Comrade Ramnaresh Ram. Today, Agiaon is dotted with memorials and plaques marking the martyrdom of comrades in the struggle against feudalism and for social dignity of Dalits and the rural poor. Bhaluni, Nagari, Nadhi- Nanour, Babubandh in Agiaon are places which have become synonymous with the brutal repression that was faced by the Party and the people of Bhojpur. It is this history of sacrifices and struggles that resulted in a powerful rebuff to J. P Nadda calling the CPIML a ‘terrorist organization’. In fact, Nadda and his allegations against the Party became the popular laughing stock and the butt of many jokes for rest of the election campaign in Agiaon!

Comrade Manoj Manzil winning this seat with a margin of over 48,000 votes is nothing short of stunning, but this victory has been a culmination of decades of arduous and patient hard work and sacrifices. CPIML’s assertion in the electoral arena has long been sought to be suppressed and while the Ranveer Sena has been defeated, the ruling classes and feudal forces continue to see the CPIML as a threat to their dominance. In the last three major elections before 2020 we faced attacks including murders of our leaders in the Agiaon area. During the 2014 Loksabha Elections Comrade Budhram Paswan was murdered. Just before the 2015 Assembly elections Comrade Satish Yadav was killed by the local feudal mafia and on the day of polling in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, party supporters were attacked while casting their votes. Even this time around Comrade Manoj was arrested immediately after filing his nomination on a completely spurious case. This elicited widespread anger, he was released on bail a few days later. Comrade Manoj has some 30 FIRs registered against him, all collected during various struggles and movements. While the Election Commission categorizes him as someone with a long ‘criminal record’, public memory in Agiaon is long enough to remember that FIRs on CPIML leaders are sure markers of standing up undeterred to face state and feudal power.

The election campaign in Agiaon this time rested on the indisputable credibility of the CPIML as a party committed to people’s struggles and the popularity of our candidate Comrade Manoj, who over the last 5 years has led a range of struggles touching upon on the lives of people across communities. While the movement for ensuring good quality education in Govt schools ‘Sadak pe School’ is now well known, Agiaon has been the centre of many other struggles.

A hugely popular movement of farmers led to water being released in to the canals after a gap of 14 years. Comrade Manoj has been at the forefront of fighting for providing compensation to the rural poor on multiple occasions, in the last five years his and the party’s efforts have led to compensation being handed out by the Govt. to the tune of 88 lakhs. Even during the lockdown when the cruel NDA governments both at the state and the centre obliterated the livelihoods of millions, there were movements for more effective disbursement of rations and against police high handedness against shopkeepers. But most significantly the Agiaon assembly constituency also saw a popular Shaheen Bagh style sit-in protest in Gadhani against the CAA-NRC-NPR with enthusiastic participation of both Muslims and non-Muslim rural poor. The importance of this proactive mobilization against the divisive agenda of the BJP-RSS was clearly visible during the elections. The BJP IT Cell tried its best to communalise the election in Agiaon by circulating a doctored video showing Comrade Manoj giving apparently ‘anti-Hindu’ slogans (actually, these were slogans against Hindu supremacist politics), but it proved to be a damp squib as their agenda to vitiate the campaign was given a powerful rebuff by the people who refused to fall in to the IT Cell’s trap and voted in large numbers against the NDA’s candidate.

The margin of the party’s victory also makes it evident that Comrade Manoj emerged as the popular choice of the people cutting across castes and communities. It also underscores once again that electoral results are a direct consequence of continuous and consistent struggles and ground work and not shying away from mobilizing people on issues that are considered ‘divisive’. In fact the lessons from Agiaon point to the opposite, only by mobilizing people on issues like CAA/NRC, Art 370 can one make the rural poor immune to the ideological onslaught of the RSS and BJP and also defeat them.

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