Mayawati's Uttar Pradesh: Emerging Dissent

Despite its own peculiarities, the by-election for the Ballia Parliamentary seat, held within months of a spectacular Mayawati victory in the State, was Mayawati's chance to reaffirm the electoral invincibility of her new magic wand of Sarvajan politics. Though she fielded the son of the biggest icon of eastern UP’s Brahmin power groups and the entire state machinery along with a battery of Ministers was at her service, she lost, to her shock, by quite a big margin of more than one lakh votes! Notwithstanding various explanations offered by Mayawati and certain factors definitely favouring Niraj Shekhar, son of late PM Chandrashekhar’s son, such a decisive defeat must also undoubtedly be understood in terms of the evolving people’s response to the ongoing Maya-Raj. Particularly worrying for Mayawati may be the reported passivity among the poor and dalits resulting in their low turn-out, as well as sections of Brahmin peasantry shifting away.

By all indications, the peasant question is emerging in a big way in the state and may in the coming days prove decisive for the Mayawati-regime, just as it once proved to be the nemesis of her bête noire Mulayam Singh. Farmers’ suicides continue unabated in various parts of the state, most notably in the Bundelkhand region. Recently two brothers committed suicide in Lakhimpur when their land (8 bighas) was auctioned by the government for non-payment of a bank loan. Dues to the tune of several thousand crores of rupees of sugarcane farmers are pending unpaid by the sugar mill owners; the farmers were brutally lathicharged when they protested at the Bajaj Sugar Mills demanding pending dues and minimum support price for their crop.

Mayawati’s dream project of the Ballia-Greater Noida Ganga Expressway, for which her loyal Chief Secretary of UP equated her with Sher Shah Suri and his Grand Trunk Road, is the latest flash point of struggle. This 8-lane, 1047 km. long Expressway for which the tender has already been accepted in favour of JP Associates, her long time financier, has a catchment area of lakhs of acres of land, out of which around 10 thousand acres of land worth Rs. 293 crores will be handed over to JPs for developing industries etc. to reap profit against their investments. They will also collect toll tax for 35 years. If a much smaller patch of land gifted to Reliance in Dadri could trigger a peasant unrest across the state which cost Mulayam Singh quite dearly, what political cost this dream project will extract from Mayawati is anybody’s guess.

The State is gradually evolving into a police state. Sensing the turbulent situation on the ground and harbouring prime ministerial ambitions, Mayawati wishes to showcase herself for the ruling elite as the iron lady of governance and development, and is intolerant of any dissent and mass protest, especially of a political nature. However, combined with this autocratic suppression of political adversaries is her meek surrender at times to the spontaneous agitations which she fears might precipitate a serious crisis before the upcoming Parliament elections; the tactical retreat on the question of contract farming and Reliance Fresh were two such cases in point.

She disbanded student unions, historically one of the most potent forums of democratic protest in UP and while protesting against this patently draconian measure, AISA-RYA leaders along with other students were put behind bars for weeks under fabricated criminal charges like 7 Law Criminal Amendment Act. etc. Recently Comrade Dinkar Kapur, AICCTU National Secretary, Ramayan Ram, President AISA UP and others were arrested from Allahabad Collectorate while they were sitting on hunger strike to highlight the demands of IFFCO workers, and on the flimsy ground of violating 144 they were sent to jail! However subsequently, the government had to take action against the local SDM, and the IFFCO MD and the GM of the Bagging Plant have also been removed.

The witch-hunt of Muslims in the state in the name of tackling terrorism is acquiring worrying proportions. Only recently one Muslim youth, Aftab Ansari from Kolkata had to undergo incarceration for around 3 weeks in STF custody at Lucknow, under charges of recent serial blasts in UP courts. The STF was bent on forcing him to accept that he was Mukhtar Ansari alias Raju of HUJI, despite his repeated plea that police could verify his identity from his ration card, pan card, Election I card etc. It was only a spirited legal battle by his widowed hapless mother, who had to rush to Lucknow from Kolkata, that he was finally released on Court orders. In fact the Aftab case is no aberration; many more Aftabs in various UP districts are undergoing the same trauma and witch-hunt. The deepening crisis of Muslim artisans intensify this growing sense of persecution among the broad Muslim populace.

In the run-up to the coming parliamentary elections, a fierce political battle has begun, to capture the crucial state of UP as a necessary pre-condition for claiming Delhi’s seat of power. With Prime Ministerial ambitions of Mayawati eating into the social base of Congress in many states outside UP as well, the bonhomie between Congress and Mayawati has turned into its opposite, thus paving the way for a new equation between Congress and Samajwadi Party. Instead of seriously addressing the grievances of drought-hit, debt-ridden, famine-struck peasantry of Bundelkhand, Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati both are engaged in a game of political one up-manship by offering sops and separate statehood for Bundelkhand. Samajwadi Party, the main opposition Party, despite its confrontationist posturing, is a discredited force in popular perception. Enthused by its recent victories, BJP is trying to regain its foothold in its erstwhile bastion of UP by raising the issues of internal security etc. in the background of recent terrorist activities in the state. However it has failed to cut much ice so far.

The CPI(ML) has intervened in this situation, taking up the struggles of workers and peasants in the states and protesting against the shrinking of democratic space. Statewide protests were held all over UP against the arrests of AICCTU and AISA leaders during the IFFCO struggle.

The UP unit of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samiti held a dharna at the UP Assembly on January 7 in which thousands of peasants participated, taking up the demands of sugarcane farmers for MSP; complete payment of all the dues with interest; waiving of all debts of small and medium peasants and a stop to the auction of their lands; as well as scrapping of the anti-peasant 'Ganga Expressway' Project; and other demands. The protestors highlighted the fact that in six months of Mayawati's rule, over 100 peasants have committed suicide, while the unpaid dues of sugar mill owners towards sugarcane farmers amounts to several thousand crores of rupees. On 15 January (Mayawati's birthday and the also the day when she laid the foundation-stone of the Ganga Expressway Project at Noida and Ballia) was observed as 'Kisan Virodh Divas' (Protest Day for the Peasantry).

There is a fertile ground for a popular left democratic resurgence in the state, and CPI(ML) is determined to meet this challenge.

Liberation Archive