Hundreds of activists, writers, and youths across Maharashtra have joined hands to campaign against the BJP’s polarising politics ahead of the 2024 general election. They gathered in Jalgaon in northern Maharashtra on July 1 and 2 to appeal to the people to vote for the strongest candidate against the BJP. The meeting set things in motion, planning various actions on the ground as well as on social media.
Bharat Patankar, veteran social activist and leader of Shramik Mukti Dal, a body of projects-affected people from western Maharashtra, said that the 2024 Lok Sabha election would be key for the future of the country. “We have seen how the BJP and the RSS are demolishing the governance system, dismantling the Constitution and trying to reverse social justice. If the BJP comes to power again in 2024, we will see the complete travesty of the value system that the freedom struggle has given us and has been cherished for the last 70 years,” Patankar said.
During the two-day meeting, activists held a series of group discussions on 18 subjects. The topics were education, health, employment, cultural invasion, minority bashing, media muzzling, youths, labour, OBCs, women, tribals, and others. Experts shared their experiences and grievances.
Discussions on key topics
Hiraman Pawar, a veteran activist in the nomadic tribes sector, held discussions with participants during which it emerged that the Central government had substantially reduced the budgetary expenditure on nomadic tribes. He said: “There are many complaints by people from nomadic tribes that the monetary subsidy has been reduced. The proposal for land allotment to nomadic tribes are not getting cleared citing lack of papers.”
During a discussion on banking, Devidas Tuljapurkar, a employees’ union leader, said: “The Narendra Modi government has committed monumental blunders in banking, from demonetisation to charging consumer for every single thing. A new government is needed to reverse these policies at the earliest.”
Firoz Mithiborwala, an activist from Mumbai, led a discussion on minority issues, where he and his colleagues expressed the fear grappling the minorities today and talked about issues such as anti-love jehad rallies, increasing incidents of Muslim youths being beaten up, and various steps taken by governments to stop interfaith marriages.
He said: “The fear in minorities is very visible. This is damaging the social fabric totally. The participants in the discussion said that the BJP’s continuing at the Centre would completely dehumanise the minorities, especially Muslims.”
In a discussion regarding the media, senior journalist Sunil Tambe showed the limitations of mainstream media and how the BJP used the power of the Central government to set the narrative through media. “The people at large are concerned about the falling credibility of media. That’s why the participants expressed the need for free and fair media,” Tambe said.
The discussion on health mentioned the Modi government’s gross failure in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. During the discussion, Dr Abhay Shukla, who has been working with several grass-roots organisations in the area of public health, said: “Providing health facilities must be the fundamental responsibility of the government. But the Modi government is gradually handing over the sector to private players. The change of government is needed to stop the growing commercialisation of health sector.”
Pratibha Shinde, a social activist, said: “We have realised the need to inform the people about how the Modi government is ultimately working for centralisation of resources. The ‘Jagar Maharashtracha’ movement plans to inform, educate, and unite the people against the BJP.”
The movement plans to target youths, farmers, first-time voters, women, the working class, professionals, and small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs during a year-long programme of public awareness.
The movement also plans to mobilise youths on unemployment. Shrinivas Shinde, a young activist from Marathwad, said: “The highest rate of unemployment in 45 years is directly linked to the Modi government’s policies. We are planning to tour the State and make youths aware about this fact.”
The poor and lower middle class, especially from the unorganised labour sector, including farm labourers, will also be another focus group. Ashatai Dhoke, leader of the rag pickers association in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (old Aurangabad), said: “The most affected class in the last 10 years is poor people. They are facing inflation and at the same time getting poorer day by the day. Still they are under the influence of media and feel Modi is doing great work for them. It will be tough to bring them out [of their thinking].”
As they finalise the sectors to be focussed on in the coming days, the movement has also decided the Lok Sabha constituencies to be worked on. Maharashtra is the second biggest State when it comes to Lok Sabha numbers with 48 seats. On the line of “Eddelu Karnataka”, the movement has decided to focus on the seats which may face a tough contest as of now. It plans to work totally in 35 seats and partially in nine seats.
Ulka Mahajan, a social activist from the Konkan area, said that this is to save limited resources and energy with the movement.
Connecting with voters
First-time voters have become a key segment in the electoral narrative in the last few years. The movement has decided to reach out to them in every constituency. Siddhesh Kadam, an expert on social media content writing, has chalked out a plan to reach out to them. He said: “We will have to tell them that the current unemployment and aggression of right-wing politics on liberal culture will hurt this generation for long. We will have to do this in the language of their generation.
Division of votes was also a point of discussion. It was decided that the movement will form a committee of eminent citizens in each constituency. Veteran social activist Subhash Ware said: “This committee will make an appeal to the candidates who won’t have the capacity to win but could result in getting a few thousand votes. Each vote is important in this election. To avoid division of secular votes, we will ask these possible candidates to not file nominations.”
Lokesh Nayak, an activist in the “Eddelu Karnataka” movement, was part of the meeting in Jalgaon. He made a presentation on how the movement in Karnataka became successful. After meeting activists across Maharashtra, Nayak said: “The Maharashtra chapter has robust participation of activists of different sectors. They have experience, commitment, and respect among the masses. The movement will be a big success if things go as planned.”