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What Does The Break-Up Of BJP-Shiv Sena Alliance Reveal About The Former’s Coalition Tactics?

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By Shinjini Devbarman:

Amidst continued deadlock over seat sharing for the Maharashtra assembly, the BJP announced the end of the 25 year old alliance with Shiv Sena on Thursday evening. With only 2 weeks left for the Assembly Polls, scheduled for 15 October, the BJP has taken a big gamble standing independently for the election. The decision to split has angered the Shiv Sena and has invited backlash from RSS – both castigating the BJP for seeking seats rather than focusing on the real issues.

BJP-Shiv Sena split

The split between BJP and Shiv Sena didn’t come as a surprise as the nature of the relation between the two parties had changed after the deaths of Bal Thackeray and BJP’s leader Gopinath Munde. Between looking for a larger seat share and difficulty in accepting Uddav Thackeray’s new leadership, the BJP had been trying to look for a way out of this alliance. The success in the Lok Sabha elections this May has made BJP more confident. The land slide victory in the parliamentary elections itself proves that the BJP can further its plans of expansion in Maharashtra without the Shiv Sena’s support.

The Lok Sabha win has made the BJP realize the need for a faster and stronger growth plan for the aspirational and impatient urban population. BJP no longer wishes to play the second fiddle in one of the most urbanized of Indian states that is Maharashtra. For the first time in 25 years, the BJP will not have the support of Shiv Sena; instead, it will contest with the rest of the ‘Mahayuti’ allies (which consist of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathan, Republican Party of India, Rashtriya Samaj Party and Shiv Sangham).

The saffron alliance was formed in 1989 between the BJP and Shiv Sena, both placing high importance to the Hindutva ideology. Such a system would not work in the present time with the ‘ache din’ campaign and its consistent effort to resuscitate its image and reach a wider demography. Moreover, the original Shiv Sena is no longer the force it used to be in the Maharashtra politics, with the split between the Thackeray brothers. Uddav Thackeray will be contesting the election without his father for the first time. For Uddav, therefore, this election is one of survival. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if the Shiv Sena feels ‘betrayed’ by the BJP at this point.

The BJP, on its part, has hinted at a possible post poll alliance and asserted that their main target is the Congress-NCP. Maharashtra BJP chief Devendra Fadnavis reportedly promised that at no point during the campaign will BJP criticize its ally and hopefully they will remain ‘friends’. The BJP has thrown the Shiv Sena in a quandary, and that too at the last minute. The split is something that the Shiv Sena cannot afford at this point. Despite the slight setback in recently held assembly by-election in some states, BJP is still banking in the ‘Modi-effect’, his popularity will account for the votes from the urban middle class.

Alliances and coalitions help solidify the power structures between partners. In the BJP’s and Shiv Sena’s case, the coalition had helped build an empire. Together, the Shiv Sena and BJP had a good run – they formed the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). When they had started in 1989, both the BJP and Shiv Sena were fizzling out of people’s minds. At the time, the Bharatiya Janata Party was new and the Shiv Sena was losing its relevance because the old ‘sons of the soil’ cause did not work any-more. The alliance gradually found its presence and flourished in the state. Their popularity sky-rocketed and the rest is history. The first case of contention came when Raj Thackeray left the party and found the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (NMS), but the original party, in coalition with the BJP, had established a strong presence in the state. They were a consistent opposition to the Congress-NCP and realized that they were better together, up until now.

As mentioned earlier, the nature of relationship between the saffron allies had changed after the deaths of the main forces of the BJP—Shiv Sena as they were the glue that held the parties together. There were contentions internally, but both parties knew the importance of staying together. Mahajan’s brother in law, Gopinath Munde, was the only thread that held both the parties together. With his death, the bitterness between the allies grew over the problem of seat sharing. The BJP, at this point, wants more shares of seats instead of the 119 offered by the Shiv Sena. On top of that, the BJP is now eyeing the post of Chief Ministership and has no intention of being in the shadow of its ‘big brother’ any-more. And although the BJP has implied a future alliance, where does it place itself in the scheme of things? Does it mean that this particular election is an experiment to see if they are ready for a permanent split? Or does it mean that on the circumstance that it fails, it will look for a coalition again? Needless to say, the given situation has put into question BJP’s coalition tactics and the assembly polls will put it all in perspective.

With the decision made last Sunday, two things are clear – the first is the obvious, that the Maharashtra Polls 2014 will be a five cornered contest, with another split between the Congress and the NCP. The second is the fact that the BJP is riding on its confidence boost from the Lok Sabha elections and the Modi-effect. This has endangered the traditional big players and calls for some big last minute changes in its campaigning. If the BJP wins this election, it would confirm Modi’s success and his bankability, which could serve as a model for other states in the future.

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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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