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Why Rahul Gandhi Shouldn’t Be The Next PM?

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By Dishank Purohit:

“Nobody really knows what he is capable of, nor what he wishes to do should he ever attain power and responsibility. The suspicion is growing that Mr. Gandhi himself does not know.” ~The Economist (10th sept 2012)

Rahul Gandhi would be the next boss of UPA’s 2014 general election campaign, this is hardly surprising. What seems confounding is a contradiction that a personality like him who never rests playing the rhetoric of performance, tactfully evades the focus of scrutiny whenever fingers point out to his own performances.

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In 2009 Rahul rose to the ranks and files of the Congress when he led his party to win 21 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha elections from Uttar Pradesh. He denied any alliance with either BSP or SP. Though Rahul Gandhi, like always, got the exclusive praise for success, poll pundits failed to notice and appreciate that the Congress war room had a well-crafted strategy, executed by a well-oiled network of Congress workers merged with the NSUI. Another factor was, that unlike today, UPA did not have any albatross of scams around its neck. Congress cracked BSP from the grassroot by successfully breaching it’s social engineering calculation. It fractured SP from the middle- thanks to SP’s family feud. All in all , UPA’s basket of performances was laden with good apples like NREGA, and across the length and the breadth of the country anti-incumbency had died down.

The acid test for Gandhi and his team was post-2G fallout, post-Anna movement elections; particularly significant
were the UP elections. Because of Rahul’s extensive travelling across UP and his support for farmers during Bhatta Parsaul incident, there was a general feeling amongst senior AICC leaders and political pundits that Congress will take away some 100 seats. This thought was seconded not only by Congress’s UP Pradesh Committee president Rita Bahuguna Joshi, but also by Rahul’s mentor and Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh.

What was the result? Out of the 355 seats Congress contested it managed to win only 28 (source). In some constituencies the margin of success was miserably narrow and victories were visible only in the last few minutes. The result was nowhere near the Congress’ expectations of 100, or at least 50 seats. Congress received 88,32,895 votes with a percentage of 11.65%. In 2007 state elections Congress had managed to win 22 seats in a state like UP, with a strong 403 seats, it can hardly be applauded as an “improvement” .

As worse as it gets, Rahul baba and his lieutenants could not properly defend Gandhi family’s castles in Amethi and Raebareli, currently represented in the Lower House by Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi. Out of the 10 assembly seats, Samajwadi swept 8 seats! The fatal flaws and cracks in strategy led to the fall of Congress strongholds in Pratapgarh and Sultanpur too, ruled by Ratan Singh and Sanjay Singh.

Raibareli, since its independence has been a Gandhi bastion, in the command of Feroze Gandhi. After Feroze’s demise, it was held by Indira Gandhi but currently, it is a Sonia Gandhi constituency. Congress party lost all five assembly segments, and except for Harchandpur, all Congress candidates came third in vote tally. Adding insult to the injury – Congress lost its prestige to newborn and lesser known parties like Rashtriya Swabhimaan Party and Peace Party, and despite Rahul Gandhi’s blood-and-sweat campaign in his home constituency of Amethi, it very narrowly won two seats of Tiloi and Jagdishpur.

Buckling under media pressure, Congress prince did take responsibility for defeat, but subsequently, leaders both from Delhi and Lucknow, lined up to save Rahul Gandhi and blamed organization for running a poor campaign. The same organization was never actually credited for the 2009 victory, thanks to Rahul Gandhi’s one man show. When Congress was desperately seeking Rahul’s support to counter anti-Congress wave, why did his leadership fizzle out in Congress’s crunch times? Nobody has the answer.

This defeat was not new for Rahul; two years ago in Bihar, Rahul did extensive “helicopter campaigning”. Congress workers were festive to see the large crowd gathered for Rahul’s speeches. The Result- just 4 seats with a voting percentage somewhere around 10%.

Contrary to popular belief , Rahul Gandhi lacks mass appeal outside of his NSUI Congress supporter group. He also lacks organizational skills. Writing about his poll debacles, The Economist wrote that “his methods–poor public speaking, a failure to understand how particular castes and religious groups would act, weak connections to local organizers–did not help. The main mistake, in retrospect, may have been that he invested so much of himself in that particular poll. But similar efforts, in Bihar and Kerala, in recent years, brought similar results.” By and large he is a “phenomenon” created by the media. Only if Rahul had looked into affairs, UP PCC might not have issued tickets too late , hence candidates would have campaigned early in their areas. Note here, that Rahul has been working to improve the organization since 2007, and still everything went awry for the congress in 2012.

Why did Rahul lose in UP, Bihar and elsewhere? Because in these states, Rahul did not allow any local or regional leaderships to emerge on the ground. So even if Congress were to win elections, there would have been no credible or strong leader to become the CM. Writing in Rediff.com, Shivam Vij pointed out at this deficiency, “what was Rahul Gandhi’s pitch in the hundreds of rallies he addressed? Rahul Gandhi said he’s in UP for the long haul even if the electorate doesn’t give him too many seats. He said he won’t ally with any party after the results.

Both statements clearly reflected that Gandhi himself didn’t believe the Congress was ‘in the race’. I’m a long distance runner, he said, and the voters responded by saying okay, we’ll see you when you get there. In short, there could be no Congress ‘hawa’ because Rahul Gandhi deflated it himself. Rahul Gandhi is right that there was an SP wave that didn’t leave room for Congress. But the SP wave was there because voters asked themselves, which party looks like it is in a position to replace the Bahujan Samaj Party? The SP leadership staked that claim, and Rahul Gandhi foolishly said in his speeches, not this time. This tendency of not building ground leadership and lack of proper planning has ruined many PCCs and opened a floodgate for regional parties like SP. Can a person like this run a successful campaign for 2014 ?

Ground realities apart, Rahul Gandhi has not proved himself either as a leader or as an administrator.When Sonia Gandhi was up for treatment in US, the responsibility was handed over to A.K. Antony, not to Rahul Gandhi ,why? Because Congress was convinced that the ongoing anti-corruption and black money movements were too hot for Rahul to handle. Now let us look at his in-house performance. According to the data of PRS, in the 14th Lok Sabha, Mr Gandhi asked only three questions, and in the ongoing 15th Lok Sabha he chose to sit quiet while the others argued. If one goes by PRS data, then in the 15th Lok Sabha he took part in only one debate, did not approve any private bill and did not ask any questions either.

Writing about leadership, John Maxwell said, “A leader is the one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way”. This does not hold true for Rahul Gandhi. He does not know his ways since 2007, and he has shown how horrible can his ways end up ,be it in UP or Bihar. A leader takes charge and leads from the front when the times are tough, but Congress-led UPA is in such a dire need of leadership, that this is the best time for him to come out, take charge and turn things around for him, his party and his coalition.

The heydays of Congress party, when even a lamp post with a Congress name could win an election are long gone and dead, and if AICC hope to sweep elections purely on the basis of the Rahul Gandhi charisma, then I have a feedback here-

One: Rahul Gandhi is not a charismatic figure by any set of measures

Two: He is the only uninspiring figure of the Gandhi dynasty.

Nehru was a statesman, the only PM who also had the portfolio of external affairs, he was the co-founder of the Non-Aligned Movement. Indira had steel determination and sheer audacity, she was the best war-time Prime Minister India ever had and for Nixon she was a nightmare. Rajiv had a vision for modern India, was fascinated by technology, and unlike his mother, he wanted to move beyond the socialist ethos. Compared to all of them Rahul has nothing. This reminds me of a precise personality description suggested by The Economist for Rahul Gandhi -“A man of immense privilege, rising only because of his family name, struggles to look convincing when he talks of meritocracy.”

Photo Credit: Πρωθυπουργός της Ελλάδας via Compfight cc

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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