In an unprecedented move, over two dozen nation wide networks and coalitions comprising more than 600 civil society organisations, people’s movements and campaign groups have come together to launch a nation-wide campaign to bring the Lok Sabha election back to basic issues.
Representatives of these organisations announced this campaign in a press conference held at the Constitution club in Delhi. The campaign “Desh Mera, Vote Mera, Mudda Mera’ (My country, My vote, My issues) will be launched with hundreds of simultaneous action programmes across the country on Shaheed Divas, 23rd of March. These organisations civil society networks called on all Indians to vote on issues of the rights of the people, especially those of the excluded sections, and not on war rhetoric.
Explaining the need of the campaign, leading social activist Harsh Mander said “At a time when the whole narrative of elections is being hijacked under the garb of nationalism, it has become imperative that civil society organisations, social movements and groups who share a commitment to our Constitutional values co-ordinate their energies to restore democratic balance,”
Underlining the significance of this campaign, Salil Shetty of No Voter Left Behind Forum said, “This campaign aims at bringing the focus back on real issues such as unemployment, farm distress, growing inequality, massively rising hate crimes including attacks against Dalits, minorities, women, journalists, civil society and human rights defenders; the condition of marginal communities and deficits in the basic welfare provisions”.
Annie Namala of Wada Na Todo Abhiyan emphasised the need to address issues of social exclusion in the electoral domain. Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan expressed a concern: “Just when substantive and inconvenient issues had begun to surface in this election, suddenly the focus has been shifted to issues of national security that allows the current regime to avoid critical scrutiny of its record.” Extending support to this campaign on behalf of farmers organisations, V M Singh, Convenor of AIKSCC, emphasized that the two pro farmer bills pending before the parliament — freedom from debt and guaranteed remunerative prices — must be passed. Hannal Moula of AIKS also brought in the issue of land rights to the landless.
Representing the unemployed youth, Sucheta De of Young India Adhikar March and Anupam of Yuva Halla Bol exposed the current regime’s shoddy record on employment. Nadeem Khan of United Against Hate said the issue of lynching should be of concern to every Indian. National networks of organisations working for Right to Education, Dalit Human Rights, Right to Food and Right to Information have also extended their support for this campaign, besides many state based coalitions of peoples movements. Bittu Karthik of Karnataka Janshakti expressed a hope that this campaign signifies the return of the people to the centre stage of national politics.
Madhuresh of National Alliance of People’s Movement explained that the campaign on 23rd will start at early morning from Tinsukhia in Assam and conclude with a late evening adivasi sammelan in Nandurbar, Maharashtra. In between, various programmes will be held in hundreds of places in various forms including Prabhat ferries, jan sabhas, rally, marches, human chain, seminar, etc.