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The Fallen Shehzada And A Prime Ministerial Fairy Tale

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By Kiran Mary George:

What does it take to be an effective, inspiring and result-oriented political leader in a society that has been marked for centuries by caste and religious differences, where multiple political parties supporting varied ideologies spend more time bickering than seeking constructive solutions ?

Rahul Gandhi

Well, you definitely don’t have to be a Gandhi, for one thing, and that despite the fact that Gandhi in Rahul Gandhi does indeed hold a very apparent reference to an overwhelming political prestige and power of no ordinary kind. Rahul Gandhi was perhaps believed to be destined to live a powerful political life taking after his parents, grandmother and great grandfather. However, nine years since he made his foray into politics, it might now be pertinent to ask – to what purpose?

Rahul Gandhi entered the political arena in 2004 and has since then successfully proved to the Indian public that despite ample wealth, power and societal status, the lack of effective oratory skills and charisma to connect with the people who have the power to elect can act as a major party pooper for any mildly ambitious political leader. Solely by virtue of his “noble” birth and not so much on account of his ability and qualifications, he was the recipient of an easy Congress ticket into politics. He contested from and won in his father’s constituency of Amethi in Uttar Pradesh, and talk emerged that the man might make the cut in the competitive race to become the next Prime Minister of India, just like his great-grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru.

This might have actually materialized, had Rahul Gandhi made good of the ample opportunity that came his way. He portrayed himself as a champion in youth politics, but has largely failed in his half-hearted attempts to win them over. In 2007, his mother gladly thrust unto him the responsibility of heading the Indian Youth Congress and National Students Union of India under the UPA government in the hope that it would teach him much about working the reigns in a fiercely competitive political scenario, but not to significant use. The next few years saw him landing up at every troubled constituency held by a Congress MLA, sympathizing with farmers and other rural inhabitants, championing others’ causes and pretending they were his very own, making promises that he had little intention of ensuring implementation of.

While the AAP made its presence felt in a matter of months, Rahul Gandhi has failed in making anything close to an earth-shattering impact and much of it has to do with his lack of initiative to challenge the status quo. After two long, seemingly endless terms, the last thing India needs is another puppet for PM who shies away from public limelight and works simply under the directions of the Congress High Command, i.e. Sonia Gandhi. The need of the hour is a proactive, charismatic political leader who undertakes effective action necessary to ensure welfare because appearing at all the right places at the right time with all the right people, whether it’s at Srinagar with the sarpanchs, or with the betel farmers in Uttar Pradesh, will help him little in his efforts to win the hearts of the people.

The Gandhi grandson has yet to realize that he failed to significantly challenge  the current state of affairs in the country, and bring a new idea to the table that will make people get up and take notice. Being no outsider to politics in India, he has little to differentiate himself from any other leader of the party by virtue of the fact that it is simply the attractive packaging that is Rahul Gandhi that has made certain sections of the Indian public more inclined to know what he has to say, albeit it is not long before they eventually come to the realization that he is just the mouthpiece through which Congress chooses to propagate its age-old ideologies in the false hope that they can be passed off as new and improved.

Another essential question may be with respect to the qualifications that he holds. Manmohan Singh had once offered him a ministerial berth and he politely declined, thereby creating an unfavourable opinion about his willingness to take on responsibility on account of his possible ineptitude. An unimpressive degree in philosophy and international relations would help him little in making crucial economic decisions that affect India’s economy, throwing light on his political inexperience and raising rather legitimate doubts regarding his competence in holding his own while heading a ministry of well educated, qualified persons responsible for governing the country.

One of the most basic and fundamental qualities of a leader is the ability to tear away from his own comfortable social circle to venture out and pay attention to what persons belonging to other schools of thought might have to say, instead of holding on furiously to one’s own ideals without the slightest inclination to listen impartially to the logicality of opinions that may be polar opposite to one’s own. It is almost inconceivable today to imagine Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi conducting a productive discussion with the aim of an actual intellectual exchange of viewpoints.

It is essential that the Prime Ministerial post belong to a well educated visionary, an independent thinker having the power to bring about change without being egged on by someone else from behind the scenes if justice is to be done to it, and I hardly think Rahul Gandhi fits the bill. As common people with the power to reason, right to vote and a limited tolerance for incompetence that crossed its threshold a long time ago, we must realize that it is entirely against our interests to bring to power another Congress protégé for a third term who is only but a walking puppet in the hands of Sonia Gandhi, with neither the ability nor the inclination to think and act for oneself when alternative parties such as the AAP still have much promise.

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  1. thecruciatuscurse

    Alternative parties with promise such as AAP? AAP is merely a newcomer to the Indian political landscape. Their views on crucial matters concerning the welfare of the country are unknown. To say they have promise, is to take them at face value and rely on what is being portrayed in public media. They have not had opportunities to prove themselves as of yet.

  2. Kiran George

    Why do you think they’ve been voted to power in Delhi ? When we’re tired of every other political party on the scene making the same old promises and failing to live up to them, and a new party crops up that for once seems to be paying attention to what we really have to say, yes I do think the AAP is an alternative to the other twisted parties our country has been destined to be governed by for a while now. Being a newcomer cannot deny them the credit that they really do deserve, because they’ve made a difference- they’ve challenged the status quo. What appears to be has made a first impression strong enough to force people to question things as they stand now, and vote for a ‘new’ party, and that, within a considerably short period of time. Because the Congress and the BJP have existed for long, have formed the government individually on many occasions does not give them an edge over AAP simply by virtue of that fact, because they’ve let us down greatly multiple times and that’s more than adequate a reason for most of us to look elsewhere.

  3. thecruciatuscurse

    Correction. They have not been voted to power in Delhi. The BJP is the single largest party in the state assembly. AAP with 28 seats, relied on outside support by the congress, the very party they castigated to no end till prior to the election results being announced to form the government. Further, they have not challenge the status quo. All they have done so far, is make promises – like every other political party does before elections. Whether or not they fail to live up to the promises made, needs, in the absence of precedent, to be determined by the credibility of its composition. Yes, they claim to have “honest” people among its ranks. However, they have no clear cut agenda. They have no clear cut opinion on important issues of foreign policy, let alone on a multitude of issues plaguing our society in general. I can list them out to you.

    1. Akshat Seth

      This argument has been copy-pasted from a plethora of BJP spokespersons and ‘Sangh Vicharaks’. My dear why don’t you look at the way they fought the elections- do you think it is a child’s play to emerge with 28 seats within a system infested by sharks like BJP and Congress? Yes I am certainly not saying that the AAP will not do anything wrong. There’s however a difference between a mistake and deliberate malpractice and the BJP whom you seem to so much endorse has indulged in those malpractices as often as the Congress has. Okay conceded AAP are not honest for a moment- so in your opinion a person who feels ‘shattered’ eleven long years after the riots which the whole world knows he didn’t do much about, we should take him at his word!

  4. Kiran George

    In challenging the existing state of affairs in the country, they have indeed challenged the status quo. There’s a reason why people are flocking to support AAP in massive numbers – they see hope that things may for once begin to work differently, that there may not be reason to vote for the BJP and Congress in every general election. I am not seeking to establish that by itself AAP is capable of handling national affairs of the country without support by forming government at the Centre, because at the moment, they are absolutely not. Their party largely constitutes laymen and is mostly devoid of persons with adequate qualifications or experience in public life to hold a Prime Ministerial post, but then again it’s an either/or situation. Modi, for example has not much of a significant education either but has an incredible amount of experience in handling political affairs in his own state as Cheif Minister, so that counts for something. AAP has indeed yet to adopt a clear stance on a large number of issues that face the country today, but the party’s barely been formally launched a year ago, and has effectuated an impact that has created a definite reason to worry for other parties. I believe that the party is yet in its initial stages, and over time more people are bound to be enamored by the alternative option to voting for other parties at the state level that it does in fact represent. AAP is, agreed, not a party well-established or experienced enough yet to hold authority at Centre stage unless it can offer a number of well-qualified candidates to hold important portfolios and work from within the government, of course initially with the support of other willing political parties.

  5. Jayant Chaudhry

    Truly said India really needs a leader who has the ability to take the decision on his own. People like Rahul Gandhi are used by some other persons for their benefit.

  6. Sneha Roychoudhury

    Well, though the Nation has it’s keen watch on the AAP, there has to be some slack cut for a fledging party. Having said that, change is not always the best thing in a political set up, no matter how much to the contrary we wish to believe. People in Bengal will willingly testify to this, given that no one had really accounted for what Mamata Banerji’s definition of change would be, anyhow.The coming elections are going to be a choice between the devil and the deep sea, and most times in History, when people have been pushed against a wall to choose the only other “plausible” alternative (in this case the BJP, who we think is our new knight in shining armour) grave mistakes have been made. We certainly have to look elsewhere, and I don’t see why the AAP cannot mark a beginning.

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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.

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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.”

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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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