Bhopal Conference – Start of a New Era
For conducting the elections, Com.Homi Daji, President, was elected as Presiding Officer and Com. J.Renganathan as Asst. Presiding Officer. Both sides nominated their election agents also. The method of conduct of elections as proposed by the General Secretary was accepted. It was not easy to conduct an election where about three thousand delegates are there with a large number of candidates including 13 office-bearers and 34 Federal Councillors from both sides. It was almost an impossible task to conduct the same in the limited time through secret ballot, which we insisted, since there can be a lot of manipulations otherwise. There was no computer or such arrangements; everything had to be typed and photostatted. It took many valuable hours. Two ballot papers were made ready – one for office bearers and another for Federal Councillors. Federal Councillor is elected from each of the affiliated unions in NFTE on the basis of membership, who will participate in the Federal Council, which will elect the office bearers of the Federation, NFTE.
The Election Campaign
The time was effectively used by both sides for election campaign. Processions with banners and flags in the vast conference pandal, speeches, slogan raising, meeting individual delegates – all kinds of propaganda were effectively organised. Since we had planned earlier, it was easy for us to arrange the same.
While I, along with other leaders and delegates were doing the propaganda work, Com. Moni Bose was sitting inside the pandal with a few comrades discussing things. He called me and secretly asked me whether we will win. I told him that there is every chance for us to win. Then he told me that ‘in that case I will have to shift to New Delhi. You must also come. It will be difficult to face them alone’. Without thinking for a moment, I told him that we are sure to win and that we can work together at Delhi. This put an end to his anxiety. There was no other way for me but to give the assurance, though I was not sure of victory.
The method for election was that each Circle Secretary will be the Election Officer for that Circle. There will be agents from both the sides. The poling booth for circles were arranged in various parts of the pandal. There were only ten circle secretaries who were supporting us and the other 22 or so other circle Secretaries belonged to OPG side. So there was every chance for manipulation of votes, and that is what happened also. Despite protests from the agent of Com. Moni Bose group, many circle secretaries compelled their delegates to vote openly so that they will not vote to our candidates. There were also some circle secretaries, who meticulously conducted the polling. The situation of Bihar Circle was not only open voting, but the Circle Secretary, after giving the ballots to the delegates, read the name of the candidates of OPG group and asked them to tick that and after checking by himself put in the ballot box. The result was that not a single vote for any candidate from Moni Bose Group was received in Bihar. The entire votes went to OPG side. Although all these manipulations were brought to the notice of the Presiding Officer, he delayed visiting the polling booths. By the time he visited, polling was over and nothing could be done. In such a situation, we were doubtful about the results of the election.
Results announced – Victory for Moni Bose panel
The counting started in the midnight and continued till morning. First, the counting was done for the election of office-bearers. The Presiding Officer, The Assistant Presiding Officer and the two agents finalised the tedious job. It was a tense movement and complete silence when the President rose to announce the results. When he started announcing the results of circles, one after another, there was complete surprise and shock. For the President onward to all the office-bearers in the Moni Bose group, a large number of votes were being received from many circles. It was a neck to neck fight.
At this stage, there was an effort from the side of Com.O.P.Gupta, to compel the presiding Officer to stop the announcement of the results. But a well known trade union leader like Com. Homi Daji, could not agree to such a miscarriage of justice.
At last the total votes for each candidates were announced after adding the votes of all circles. The following Office-bearers from Moni Bose group were declared elected:
V.A.N.Namboodiri ,(Kerala ) (President) Smt. A.K.Saramma (Madras), Smt. Anima Banerjee (Calcutta), K.D.M.Tripathi (U.P)(Vice-Presidents), Moni Bose (W.Bengal) (General Secretary), M.N.Reddy (A.P.), S.R.Nayak (M.P) (Asst. General Secretaries), Begraj Kheri (UP) (Treasurer), P.S.Sangwan (Haryana)(Asst. Treasurer)
The following were four office-bearers elected from OPG group, but with very less margin:
N.T.Sajwani (M.P.), N.Y.Lokhande (Bombay) (Vice-Presidents), R.K.Kohli (Delhi), S.Jagannathan (T.Nadu) (Asst. General Secretaries).
The maximum vote was received by Smt. A.K.Saramma, Vice-President. She was a senior leader of the Madras Telephones. She got many votes from the North also confusing her name with ‘Sharma’. Further, there were only 4 candidates from OPG side to the posts of 5 Vice-Presidents.
O.P.Gupta, General Secretary of the union for long 37 years since formation of NFPTE and E.III Union in 1954, lost for the first time. In fact, there was not any contest in AICs, except once or twice, that too not on a panel basis. He was considered undefeatable. The delegates decided otherwise.
After conveying his Greetings and Best Wishes, the President left the place stating that he had some urgent meetings to attend. He entrusted Asst. Presiding Officer J.Renganathan and OPG nominee Y.L.Ramdas to count the votes for the election for the Federal Councillors. After congratulating and extending full co-operation to the newly elected office-bearers, O.P.Gupta also left the place stating that he has to reach Delhi urgently. Probably it was much embarrassment for him to meet the workers after his decisive defeat in the elections.
The counting for the Federal Councillors were conducted next. It also took a long time. The following were elected: This included many from both sides, as it was felt at the time of nomination itself that circle secretaries of major circles need not be contested. Many names were in both the lists.
Comrades R.Gunasekhar, S.D.Borkar, R.L.Mondal, Gour Saha, Swadeshi Das, A.K.Bhattacharjee, Parithosh Bose, Sivdas Banerjee, J.Renganathan, P.Abhimanyu, P.V.Chandrasekharan, S.N.Sarma, P.Ramasamy, P.Asoka Babu, N.T.Sajwani, S.B.Srinivasan, R.S.Yadav, M.Madhusudana Rao, R.K.Thotre, M.P.Dalwadi, M.N.Khokhani, N.Chakravarti, S.Siddiqui, B.B.Rawat, S.G.Pawar, B.P.Sharma, L.N.Mishra, K.L.Sharma, D.V.Lavadia, M.B.Vichare, Triveni Rai, Sriram Swaran Kar, J.Sampath Rao and J.C.Pande.
The new office-bearers and Federal Councillors were greeted with slogans by the delegates. Many from the OPG group itself were happy that a change for the correct policy has come.
Thus a great change came in the leadership as well as the policy of the union. This was a historical victory for the progressive section in the union. The change was not only welcomed by the telecom workers, but many organisations of the central government employees unions as also P and T unions welcomed this change. This was treated as a victory for the correct policy over the revisionist line.
The newly elected office-bearers and Federal Councillors were given a grand welcome in the Bhopal Exchange premises. Coms. V.A.N.Namboodiri, President and Com. Moni Bose, General Secretary spoke and assured the workers that they will focus on the issues of the workers and will tread the correct line.
Thus ended the historical Bhopal Conference. (To be continued).