Concerned by the communal propaganda blitzkrieg aimed at diverting people’s attention from corruption, unemployment and failure of the government on all fronts, over two dozen nationwide networks and coalitions of more than 600 civil society organisations, people’s movements and campaign groups on March 23 launched a mass awareness campaign to bring the Lok Sabha election back to basic issues.
The campaign Desh Mera, Vote Mera, Mudda Mera (My Country, My Vote, My issues) was launched with hundreds of simultaneous action programmes across the country on Shaheed Divas observed to pay tribute to the martyr trio Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.
These organisations of 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 on Dalits, minorities, women, journalists, civil society and human rights defenders.”
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 said, “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, pointed out that the two pro farmer bills pending before the parliament — freedom from debt and guaranteed remunerative prices — were long pending before the Parliament for passage. The issue of land rights to the landless too was getting neglected.
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 to the campaign, besides many state based coalitions of peoples movements.
Bittu Karthik of Karnataka Janshakti expressed hope that this campaign would signify the return of the people to the centre stage of national politics.
Madhuresh of National Alliance of People's Movement explained that the campaign will start at early morning from Tinsukhia in Assam and conclude with a late evening adivasi sammelan in Nandurbar, Maharashtra.
Programmes will be held in hundreds of places in various forms including Prabhat Feris, Jan Sabhas, rallies, marches, human chain and seminars.
Some of the major coalitions/networks and organisations that have endorsed the campaign are:
National Alliance of Peoples' Movements, All India Kisan Sangharsh Samnvay Samiti, Pension Parishad, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan, Right to Food Campaign, National Campaign Committee for Rural Workers, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information, United Against Hate, Yuva Halla Bol, Young India Adhikar Manch, Right to Education Forum, No Voter Left Behind Forum, Ekta Parishad, Swaraj Abhiyan, Karwan e Mohabbat, Jaganyachya Hakkache Andolan (Maharashtra), Deshakkagi Naavu, Karnataka Vidyarthi Sanghatane, Janandolanagala Mahamaithri, Soochna Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan (Rajasthan), Vidyavant Vedike (Telangana), Maharashtra Yuva Parishad, Surajya Sena (Maharashtra), Save the Constitution Forum (Karnataka), Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan and Satark Nagrik Sangathan.