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Kisan Leaders Balwan Poonia, Giridharlal Mahiya Storm Into Rajasthan Assembly

The two winning candidates from the CPI(M) have been in the forefront of peasant struggles in the state.
Balwan Poonia and Giridharlal Mahiya

NEW DELHI: The movements and struggles of farmers and workers for their rights across the Hindi heartland states -- Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh -- resonated in the poll outcome in these three states that ousted the anti-farmer and anti-worker BJP governments. Though the Congress has gained electorally from the outcome of these continued struggles, spearheaded by platforms led by the Left, two farmer leaders of these movements in Rajasthan -- Balwan Poonia and Giridharlal Mahiya -- have paved their way to the state Assembly with a stunning majority. 

Poonia and Mahiya, both candidates of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), were in the forefront of peasant struggles in the state.  Poonia, 41, joint secretary of the Rajasthan unit of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), won from Bhadra constituency in Hanumangarh district by defeating the incumbent MLA Sanjeev Kumar of BJP with a margin of 23,153 votes. 

Mahiya, 60, the Bikaner district president of AIKS, bagged 72,376 votes and won the seat from the Shree Dungargarh constituency, with a margin of 23,896 votes against Mangalaram of Congress. It is important to note that in 2013, the CPI(M) candidate from the same constituency had secured only 2,500 votes in the Assembly elections. 

Read More: What Will Modi and Shah do to Revive the Sagging Fortunes of the BJP in the Next 4 Months?

“These two comrades will be the voice of the struggling peasants, workers and the oppressed in the Rajasthan Assembly,” said Vijoo Krishnan, All India Joint Secretary of AIKS.

Poonia and Mahiya were active in the struggles against electricity price hike, demanding a fair price for crops, opening of purchasing centres, demanding liberation from debt, irrigation, insurance, pension etc. Along with other AIKS activists, both have consistently fought for the rights of the peasantry in the state.

In February this year, Poonia along with farmers from Chain Bari village in Hanumangarh district had staged a protest in front of the State Bank of India branch against the extra interest that had been charged on the Kisan Credit Card (KCC) loans. A 58-day long protest under Poonia’s leadership compelled the bank to credit Rs 16,52,000 to 350 KCC accounts.

“The collective effort of AIKS, the Left mass and class organisations as well as the CPI(M) has helped create an atmosphere for their victory. Even as they have won, many others who have been active in these struggles have not been able to win the electoral battle,” said Krishnan, while highlighting how these leaders managed to make inroads into the traditional strongholds of BJP and Congress.

While AIKS state general secretary Pema Ram lost the election in Dhod in a tough fight. He has secured 61,089 votes in the constituency, trailing the winning candidate by 14,053 votes. Amra Ram, the national vice president of AIKS and state general secretary of CPI(M) secured 42,543 votes from Danta Ramgarh constituency in Sikar district. One another, Shyopat Ram Meghwal, the CPI(M) candidate from Raisinghnagar constituency has also bagged 43,364 votes.

Read More: Rajasthan Farmers' Movement: the Story so Far

The series of protests and struggles in the state under the leadership of AIKS helped set the mood for the BJP government’s ouster. Though the CPI(M) could only win two seats in terms, its vote  share has increased significantly over the last elections.

This time, the CPI(M) contested in 28 seats as part of a seven-party alliance called the Loktantrik Morcha. Apart from CPI(M), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Marxist Communist Party of India (United), Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and Janata Dal (Secular) were in the alliance. However, last time, the party had fought in 38 seats.

The total number of votes that polled by CPI(M) in this election is 4,32,001, which is 1.2% of the total votes polled. However, in 2013, it got 2,69,002 votes accounting for 0.9% of the total votes polled. 

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