A+| A| A-

Madhya Pradesh: Socio-economic Base of Political Dynamics

MADHYA PRADESH Socio-economic Base of Political Dynamics RAHUL BANERJEE The authors of the set of studies on Madhya Pradesh (November 26, 2005) have to be commended for their varied and detailed analyses of the prevailing situation in the state. However, as the compiler of the studies has admitted, given the vastness and diversity of the state there remained some gaps. I would like to dwell here on one such crucial gap in the study on the political dynamics of Madhya Pradesh by Shaibal Gupta (SG). He has totally ignored the peasant mobilisations by the Socialist Party and its various later editions and the mobilisation of the industrial proletariat by the Communist Party of India in the early post independence years and also the mass mobilisations by non-party political organisations in the final two decades of the last century. This is primarily because SG has done a desk study of published literature on the history of political mobilisations in Madhya Pradesh and sadly there is a total lack of scholarly studies on the mobilisations of the socialists and communists. Apart from Amita Baviskar

Discussion

MADHYA PRADESH

Socio-economic Base of Political Dynamics

RAHUL BANERJEE

T
he authors of the set of studies on Madhya Pradesh (November 26, 2005) have to be commended for their varied and detailed analyses of the prevailing situation in the state. However, as the compiler of the studies has admitted, given the vastness and diversity of the state there remained some gaps. I would like to dwell here on one such crucial gap in the study on the political dynamics of Madhya Pradesh by Shaibal Gupta (SG). He has totally ignored the peasant mobilisations by the Socialist Party and its various later editions and the mobilisation of the industrial proletariat by the Communist Party of India in the early post independence years and also the mass mobilisations by non-party political organisations in the final two decades of the last century. This is primarily because SG has done a desk study of published literature on the history of political mobilisations in Madhya Pradesh and sadly there is a total lack of scholarly studies on the mobilisations of the socialists and communists. Apart from Amita Baviskar’s study of the Narmada Bachao Andolan there aren’t any published studies of the alternative political mass movements of the 1980s and 1990s in the state either. Most political commentators so far have restricted themselves to studying the degenerate electoral politics practised by the Congress and the Jana Sangh/Bharatiya Janata Party in the state and unfortunately SG has followed this dubious tradition. This has led him to some erroneous conclusions about the political dynamics of Madhya Pradesh, as we shall see.

Contrary to what SG says, quoting Dunu Roy, that there were not many peasant movements in the regions, which later became Madhya Pradesh, there were vibrant and militant peasant movements in Rewa, Shahdol, Bhopal, Hoshangabad, Jabalpur, Balaghat, Raipur, Bastar, Jhabua and Ratlam districts, led by grassroot activists owing allegiance to the Congress Socialist Party as it then was during British rule itself. This was because the tax burden and the levee of free labour on the peasants were quite high in both the princely states and the ryotwari and malguzari areas of the central provinces. Indeed, the Bhils and Gonds had earlier revolted repeatedly during British rule against this oppression and in some instances, like that of the mobilisations under the leadership of Gundadhur, Tantia Bhil and Khajya Naik, posed a serious threat to their hegemony. I fail to understand how Dunu Roy has come to the conclusion that feudalism in the state was of a comparatively benign kind.

Socialist and Communist Movements

The socialist and communist movements gained considerably in strength in the first decade after independence due to the fact that the people felt that in the changed political milieu their demands would be fulfilled. Similarly the nascent industrialisation in Gwalior and Indore also spawned a militant trade union movement under the leadership of the Communist Party of India. Consequently in the third Lok Sabha, constituted in 1962, there were four MPs from the two factions of the Socialist Party and one from the Communist Party. From the beginning, the Congress tried to use the composite strategy perfected by the British of unleashing repression and holding out co-optive sops to break these burgeoning mobilisations. The periodicals published at that time by the socialist and communist parties give vivid details of the way in which mass demonstrations were brutally lathicharged and the protesting activists and people jailed on false criminal charges throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. The so-called social engineering of Arjun Singh later was nothing but a continuation of the cooptive strategy of the Congress, first set in motion by D P Mishra to contain these rising mobilisations. In fact, this was part and parcel of the national policy adopted by Nehru to snuff out radical movements all over the country, including those in Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The latter have their historians and so are talked about and analysed in scholarly circles, but the brave fighters of sleepy Madhya Pradesh have not had the benefit of such chroniclers and so remain anonymous to this day.

The net result of the carrot and stick policy was that the socialists and communists were marginalised by the late 1960s and lost their mass following. Thereafter, a new set of mobilisations started in the undivided Madhya Pradesh in the late 1970s with the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh in Dalli Rajhara to be followed by various adivasi mobilisations, the mobilisation against the Bhopal gas tragedy and the mobilisation against the Sardar Sarovar dam on the river Narmada in the 1980s. These movements never reached the same mass strength as the earlier movements but they were more press savvy and so had a greater visibility, nationally and internationally. However, once again all these movements were subjected to the time-worn carrot and stick policy by the state and most so during the decade of Digvijay Singh’s rule. Digvijay Singh was progressive only in name. He did initiate one of the best legal and policy frameworks for panchayati raj in the country, but the moment the alternative mass organisations took advantage of these provisions and created situations in which the state was challenged significantly, he came down hard on them. In one case he even went to the extent of ordering a repressive campaign that ended with the killing of four members of an adivasi mass organisation in cold blood in unwarranted police firing. He would have exited during the 1998 elections itself had not the failure of the BJP government at the centre to rein in the price of onions, which shot up to

Economic and Political Weekly January 7, 2006

Rs 60 a kg at election time, helped him to coast through with a wafer thin majority. His second stint was the most corrupt in the history of the state, high on rhetoric and publicity and very low on actual performance, especially in the crucial dry land agricultural sector, as so ably described by Vijay Shankar in the companion study in the set on agriculture in Madhya Pradesh.

Repression and Co-option

Any way, Digvijay Singh made sure that the alternative political movements were flattened in the same way as the much more formidable socialist and communist movements had been earlier. Thus, we see a continuity of anti-people policies implemented with the help of repressive colonial laws and an insensitive bureaucracy throughout the post independence period. The rising new leadership from the OBCs, dalits and adivasis have all been co-opted into the corrupt electoral politics practised by the Congress and the BJP right down to the level of the panchayats. The net result is that repression and co-option have made sure that there is no worthwhile radical political formation in the state, which can both educate and lead the masses towards the achievement of a more peoplecentred form of governance and development. It has become a fashion these days among journalists and political analysts alike to cogitate endlessly on the various caste permutations and combinations that work themselves out during elections in this country, especially in the Hindi heartland. But this is an idle exercise because it cannot get to the roots of the exploitative relations that exist beneath the veneer of caste. And, it also obfuscates the way in which the state both reinforces and maintains these exploitative relations through repressive and co-optive strategies.

Thus, the marginalised people of the state rejected the reforms of Digvijay Singh because they were of a spurious nature. They have to be if bourgeois democracy, market economy and destructive modern industrial development have to be continued in this country and worldwide. By totally ignoring the history of mass mobilisations and the repression unleashed on them by the state, SG has been left searching for solutions to the political marginalisation of the majority of the people in the state in the upward mobility of the subaltern elite brought about by its co-optive strategies. It is indeed a tragedy of our times that political scholars these days try to figure out the character of the state and the reason for the marginalisation of the masses by analysing the proclivities of lumpens like Ram Babu Gaderia and Phoolan Devi rather than by studying the repression that it practises on the proletariat and the peasantry. It looks as if the people of Madhya Pradesh will have to wait long for an authentic painstakingly researched history of their struggles for emancipation.

EPW

Email: rahul.indauri@gmail.com

SPECIAL ISSUE GLOBAL EXPERIENCE WITH ELECTRICITY REFORM December 10, 2005 Alternating Currents: Introduction to an International Review of Electricity Restructuring – Navroz K Dubash, Daljit Singh Of Rocks and Hard Places: A Critical Overview of Recent Global Experience with Electricity Restructuring – Navroz K Dubash, Daljit Singh British Experience of Electricity Liberalisation: A Model for India? – Stephen Thomas Deregulation of Electricity Markets: The Norwegian Experience – Torstein Bye, Einar Hope A Cautionary Tale: US Electricity Sector Reform – Seth Blumsack, Jay Apt, Lester B Lave Power Sector Reform in Latin America: Accomplishments, Failures and Challenges – Jaime Millan Power Sector Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Some Lessons – Njeri Wamukonya From State to Market and Back Again: South Africa’s Power Sector Reforms – Anton Eberhard Electricity Reforms in the ASEAN: A Panoramic Discourse – Deepak Sharma For copies write to: Circulation Manager Economic and Political Weekly, Hitkari House, 6th Floor, 284, Shahid Bhagatsingh Road, Mumbai 400 001. email: circulation@epw.org.in WEEKLYECONOMIC AND POLITICAL

Economic and Political Weekly January 7, 2006

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

The article responds to “Social Distancing and Sex Workers in India” by Priyanka Tripathi and Chhandita Das (EPW, 1 August 2020).

A response to “Measuring Access, Quality and Relevance in Higher Education” by Pankaj Mittal et al (EPW, 13 June 2020) discusses the inadequacy of...

Deepankar Basu and Debarshi Das, in their article “Assam’s Politics and the NRC” (EPW, 1 February 2020), have raised a few critical issues...

In response to the editor’s column, “University as an Idea’’ by Gopal Guru (EPW, 11 January 2020) and Swatahsiddha Sarkar’s article, “The Idea of...

This article assesses the central arguments made in “Envisioning the India of 2047” by Shyam Menon (EPW, 8 February 2020).

In response to Srirupa Bhattacharya’s article “Groundwater, Gurus, and Governmentality: Seva in the Neo-liberal Development Regime in India” (EPW...

Responding to some of the criticisms in Anant Phadke’s review of Katherine Eban’s Bottle of Lies: Ranbaxy and the Dark Side of Indian Pharma, “...

A response to “Assam’s 2019 Verdict and the Anti-CAB Mobilisations” by Akhil Ranjan Dutta (EPW, 28 December 2019) points to long-run strategies...

A response to “Are Resettled Oustees from the Sardar Sarovar Dam Project ‘Better Off’ Today?” by Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar and Neeraj Kaushal...

The authors of Gandhi and Philosophy: On Theological Anti-Politics respond to A Raghuramaraju’s review of their book published in EPW (3 August...

Back to Top