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What Congress Needs To Learn About Having A ‘Family Mukt’ Party And More

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By B Chandrashekar:

Congress Mukt Bharath’ — that’s the goal of the BJP – an India without Congress Party. Looking at the decimation of the Congress party in 2014 general elections and assembly elections, this doesn’t sound like an improbable goal. But, do we really need a Congress mukt India or a ‘Family’ mukt Congress?

Congress mukt India is not what we need for a simple reason that a strong opposition is a definite need for a vibrant democracy.

congress

With the decimation of Congress, there is a larger threat of the rise of smaller regional parties that serve only some narrow cause based on caste, community, language or ethnicity. In a country without a two party system, a divided opposition only creates more chaos in the event of election. When Congress was the largest political party, we saw situations of political commotion after the elections of 1977, 1989, 1996 etc. at the centre. Now the trend has reversed where BJP is in Congress’ position but the situation in opposition camp remains the same. Instable governments have achieved only very little. To add to that, fragmented opposition can result in the victory of the party which has been rejected by the majority.

Congress’ stance of ‘left of the centre’ is an alternative to the BJP’s ‘right of the centre’ position. In a mature democracy, it is the presence an alternative point of view that brings essence to the entire democratic set up. It is a matter of debate on which stance is correct and India has a record of carefully treading the ‘middle’ way, it doesn’t hurt to have a different opinion and actually it is a necessity.

Congress is not a party that is devoid of any talent. Some of the smartest politicians in the country are from Congress. It has a mix of intellectuals as well as leaders ‘from the grass roots’; the former, which even the BJP lacks. (While selecting cabinet ministers, Congress always had a problem of plenty, but now, Arun Jaitley is both Finance and Defense Minister, holding two of the top four portfolios).

We need Congress party to serve as a principal opposition party to keep a check on the government’s actions. It is only the Gandhi/Nehru family that needs to be ousted, if at all it is possible. Every party makes mistakes, sometimes Himalayan ones, but it deserves a chance to stay in the race only when it learns from them.

Imagine, for instance, if BJP had lost badly in the 2014 general elections. That would have been the end of Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions; L K Advani would have said, “I already told you so”; other BJP leaders like Sushma Swaraj would have gone all against the party president; Rajnath Singh’s head would have taken the toll. This is called inner party democracy, which the grand old party lacks.

The selection of Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate by the BJP is the closest that any party came to something like primaries in the USA, where the party cadres select the candidates. Of course there were some counter views including that of Advani, but it was only a minority voice. BJP has a Parliamentary Board that takes all major decisions, but when it comes to Congress, it’s the family’s will all the way.

Congress not only defied necessary guts to project Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi (it is not mandatory to assign a PM candidate before election; however it’s a no brainer that if the party had won, it would have been Rahul Gandhi. The point here is that even though he was the de facto PM candidate, the party didn’t have the nerve to name him officially). After the party lost, it took ‘collective responsibility’ and cited ‘lack of communication in publicizing UPA’s achievements’ that led to the loss. They forgot that the first step in fixing a problem is accepting that there is one. After elections, Rahul Gandhi didn’t even want to be the leader of the Congress party in Parliament; it was subordinated to Mallikarjun Kharge.

When Congress lost badly in 2014 general elections, the party men did not turn to second rung leaders to take the mantle nor did they expect the family to take responsibility; they turned to Priyanka Gandhi to save them! After the assembly elections in October, this voice is growing louder. It is in their DNA to stay loyal to the family and even their choices are restricted there. There was not a single Congress leader who questioned Rahul Gandhi’s capability. That’s the way it has been since Indira Gandhi. An exception could be the period between Rajiv Gandhi’s death and Sonia Gandhi’s entry, but it did not last long; and more importantly, when the party lost in 1996, the inner party dissidence was louder than ever before and the entire scene was chaotic till Sonia Gandhi’s arrival.

It was the family that made a mockery out of one of the world’s renowned economists by making him a dummy prime minister and denying him his due power. If Manmohan Singh had retired from public life, say before 2004, he would have been revered as a hero and one of the chief architects of liberalisation. Thanks to the family’s dominance, the PMO’s supremacy was at its nadir.

If a Cabinet boasts IITians, Harvard MBAs, lawyers and a former United Nations diplomat among its members, an honest person as the PM, and still delivers the worst rule with corruption scandals and poor governance at a scale that was never seen before, it doesn’t take a seer to say that the problem is at the top.

Agreed, without the family, Congress would be a fissiparous institution. It is the family that serves as glue for the entire party. It would be an arduous task to ask the family to step down and elect a party president that is acceptable to majority of the second rung party leaders. But if they fail to act now, no one can save the party from its current shatters.

Pragmatically, Congress without the family is impossible. A strong and competent leader at the helm, with effervescent inner party democracy, is an ideal state which is a distant dream. However, if the dream of ‘Family mukt Congress’ remains only as a dream, then ‘Congress mukt India’ would become reality. It’s now up to the party men to decide.

You must be to comment.
  1. Ravi

    The need of the day is to evolve Congress into a 21st Century Liberal Party, with or without Gandhi/Nehrus. Hindu Fascism must be defeated.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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