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5 Important Factors That Contributed To BJP’s Victory In The Haryana And Maharashtra Elections

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By Samar Halarnkar:

What messages did the voters of Haryana and Maharashtra send out? From the election results of October 19, 2014, here are five of the most important factors in their decision:

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1. The Modi factor: There is a clear, discernible effect that the Prime Minister has had on these assembly elections; clear and discernible in Haryana, clear–but not quite as discernible as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hoped for in Maharashtra. To sweep Haryana–where the BJP went from four seats to 47–with no chief ministerial candidate, no electoral history of significance and an absence of known faces, indicates the heft and reach of Narendra Modi. Haryana voted for the man and his message of development and a “Congress-mukt Bharat”.

To become the single-largest party in Maharashtra- the BJP went from 46 seats to 122- with, again, no chief ministerial candidates- although the party has previously run a coalition government and won 23 of 24 Lok Sabha seats in May’s parliamentary elections- indicates Modi’s widespread influence but also reveals the limits of that influence in uniting a state that represents India’s economic and social extremes and divisions. To comprehensively defeat a party that has, in some form, governed Maharashtra for 49 years is a little more than significant. Equally significant is the fact that the BJP also lost many seats by a margin of less than 1,000 votes. Its vote share is up from 14% to 27.8%.

Yet, as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideologue, M. G. Vaidya said on television, Modi and BJP President, Amit Shah, drew big crowds but not as many votes as the party hoped for. The BJP’s inability to garner a majority, 145 seats, appears to disclose that while the power of Modi’s persona papered over many old hatreds, divisions and insecurities, it was not enough. New schisms and fears and the continuing, if diminished, hold of caste, religion and identity manifest in this result, as, of course, is the increasingly impatient aspiration for a better life.

2. The identity factor: The Modi effect indeed subsumed many prevailing caste divisions, a continuation of the pan-caste voting for the BJP was observed in parliamentary elections. The Shiv Sena, which won 63 seats focusing openly on the Hindu, Marathi-speaking voter, failed in its attempt to win more by accusing, former and now current ally, the BJP, of being a “Gujarati” party. But this influence is more limited in Maharashtra than it is in Haryana-where caste affiliation faded in a great surge towards the BJP- and applies mainly to Hindus.

In keeping with a trend apparent nationally, to give tickets largely to Hindus, the BJP in Maharashtra had only two Muslim candidates in its list of 280. The Shiv Sena had only one Muslim candidate in its list of 282. This exclusion, combined with Muslim nervousness and disillusionment with the Congress and its ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), appears to have led to the election of three candidates of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), a party that made its electoral debut in Maharashtra by contesting 25 seats. It is quite obvious there was en masse Muslim voting (Muslims make up 11% of Maharashtra’s 114 million people) in the AIMIM’s two victories, the same as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which had 13 seats in 2009.

What worked for the AIMIM-a sectarian appeal, did not work for the MNS, which appealed to Marathi asmita (pride) and worked only partially for the Shiv Sena. Did the Shiv Sena get fewer seats because the MNS played spoiler, taking away votes that would have gone to Bal Thackeray’s original party? That is possible but not yet clear.

What worked more than anything else appears to have been Modi’s strategy of merging talk of development while addressing Maharashtra’s many local identities, being, as it were, “more Marathi than the Marathis”. Caste affiliations prevailed in limited fashion, notably in the Konkan, where the BJP won none of 15 seats (the Shiv Sena won more than half), and Western Maharashtra, where the electorate ignored allegations of corruption against the NCP and helped the party avoid the wipeout predicted by pundits and pre-election polls.

3. The corruption factor: It is apparent the vote in both states focused a great deal on the widespread corruption allegations; against the Congress in Haryana and against the Congress-NCP alliance, particularly the NCP, in Maharashtra.

A land transaction involving Robert Vadra, Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law, is the latest in a string of deals allegedly cleared by the Congress government in Haryana; it provided plentiful grist for Modi’s mill. Haryana’s other parties were similarly mired in malfeasance. Former Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala, of the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and his son Ajay are both in prison, serving 10 years for cheating, forgery, conspiracy in the illegal recruitment of 3,000 junior teachers. While the Congress won 15 (down from 44) of 90 seats, the INLD won 19 (down from 31).

In Maharashtra, corruption allegations had an impact that was not quite as clear. While the Congress overall bore the brunt of running a government that was seen to have misgoverned Maharashtra, allegations of corruption, specifically on irrigation and dam-building contracts awarded by the NCP–which Modi called a “Naturally Corrupt Party”–did not have the resonance observers expected. Indeed, Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar was re-elected, by a margin of more than 80,000 votes, despite Modi’s plea to free the family’s political fief, Baramati, from the “slavery of the Pawars”; as was the Congress’ Ashok Chavan, forced to resign as Chief Minister, after being accused of awarding illegal clearances to the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society, a high-rise built on prime Mumbai land to house politicians and bureaucrats.

4. The family factor: The great slide in Haryana and Maharashtra indicates that the fortunes of the Gandhi dynasty continue to dwindle. What it does not mean is that the Indian voter, enthused by Modi’s tea-boy-becomes-Prime-Minister story, has discarded political dynasties, old loyalties and habits. While some politicians from dynastic families lost, a great number won. Maharashtra saw 13 wins, nine losses in such families. Haryana saw seven wins and five losses.

In Maharashtra, many candidates whose fathers–there are no mothers involved–are, or were old-style politicians, distributing largesse and peddling influence, won. So, while the Congress party’s strongman from the lush, coastal Konkan lost, his son Nitesh Rane won. In arid Latur city, Amit Deshmukh, son of former Chief Minister, the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, won. The family runs a variety of institutions, from sugar cooperatives to cooperative banks to colleges–together serving thousands of urban and rural voters–and appears to command substantial loyalty from the locals. Amit Deshmukh indicated the electoral power of loyalty, tweeting: “Thank you Latur!!!!! You’re the best. Great lessons in loyalty and faith to be learnt from you.”

Sushilkumar Shinde, former Union Home Minister, lost the Lok Sabha election from the family borough of Solapur, a constituency known for its mounds of garbage and bad roads. His daughter, Praniti Shinde, who rode on her father’s coat-tails, won. In Haryana, many dynastic candidates were swept away in the Modi wave, including Savitri Jindal, the billionaire mother of former MP Naveen Jindal; Chander Mohan, son of former chief minister Bhajan Lal; and Dushyant Chautala, grandson of the jailed Om Prakash Chautala. But Dushyant’s uncle, Abhay Chautala, won. Two others dynastic victors were Renuka Bishnoi of the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC) and wife of former deputy chief minister Kuldeep Bishnoi.

There is no simple trend to discern, which means that the voter does not count dynasty as a major negative. Dynastic politics still works, if it addresses continually soaring aspirations and delivers things that matter to the voter.

5. The dream factor: Eventually, the underlying theme in the decision of the electorates of Haryana and Maharashtra is to vote for someone who addresses their dreams and ambitions.

While Modi has, in varying degrees, addressed the yearning for a better life, even the politics of identity and dynasty appears to be changing. Haryana, one of India’s more prosperous states, has voted for dramatic change in ushering in the BJP, a party that has never been more than a marginal player and never garnered more than 10% of the vote share, now up to 33%. The corruption charges against the Congress and slow economic progress were factors in the party’s ejection from power. The only constant is aspiration, which translates into a demand for more efficient, responsive local government. That could account for the comprehensive parliamentary mandate for the BJP in May and October’s substantially less enthusiastic mandate. Maharashtra’s voters clearly believed Modi was the best person to run India, but they are not entirely sure about those running their villages, towns and cities, a likely reason for the more ambiguous vote.

As this blog post said: “The politics of Bombay has long been benighted by the problem of nativism. What was once a great metropolis has been bogged down by decades of nativist politics. These results show a possibility for becoming a normal city, where the political questions that matter are about efficiently producing local public goods.”

Visualizations by Sanjit Oberai

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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.

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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.

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.

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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)’.

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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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