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Bihar Elections 2015: Will The BJP Lose To The ‘Unholy Alliance’?

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By Devika Kohli:

Bihar assembly elections are due later this year, and given the current political scenario in the state, it would be interesting to observe the outcome. The personal equations amongst party leaders have undergone a major change since 2010 i.e. the last assembly elections. In the hope for maximizing votes, personal differences have been set aside and new alliances are being forged while some old ones have been broken.

For Representational Purpose Only
For Representational Purpose Only

Shifting political alliances

Nitish Kumar led Janata Dal (United) had led the NDA to a massive victory in 2010, however in June 2013, the Janata Dal leader ended his 17 year old political alliance with the NDA due to irreconcilable differences.

On the other hand, in December 2014, what can be termed as a rare sight, arch-rivals Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav were spotted together sharing the dais. Similarly, Jitan Manjhi, ex-chief minister of Bihar and an ex Nitish Kumar loyalist, declared to the media, “We will fight together. Defeating the unholy alliance of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in Bihar is the main issue for us and the BJP.” Manjhi’s recent meeting with the BJP president Amit Shah has triggered speculations about a possible tie up with the party.

Janata Parivar merger, Congress too joins in

The regional parties, after being decimated in the Lok Sabha elections 2014 (in their respective states), have decided to stand united in order to strike a fitting blow to the NDA regime in the upcoming assembly elections. Thus, in April 2015, it was declared that the new outfit, Janata Parivar, will be led by the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. The main constituents of Janata Parivar merger are Janata Dal United (JDU), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party (SP), Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS) and Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).

In a bid to gain momentum in Bihar, Congress too has announced its tie-up with the RJD and the Ruling JD (U). What is interesting to note is that it is for the first time in history that Congress has joined hands with JD (U). Clearly, the regional parties have recognized the need of the hour and are trying all possible permutations and combination to have the upper hand in the upcoming elections. If the trio (JD(U), RJD and Congress) wins, then their choice of CM will be Nitish Kumar while the BJP is yet to declare its candidate for Bihar.

Modi effect waning in Bihar?

Recent reports suggest that compared to last year, BJP’s popularity seems to be declining owing to the gap between their promises and performance. It has been a tough year for farmers in Bihar and there is rising anger amongst them due to what they perceive as ‘state’s apathy’ towards their lot. The repeated promulgation of land ordinance is further serving as fuel to the fire.

The people of Bihar understand the pulse of this nation. They have understood that the (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi-led government in Delhi is not the Government of the poor people or the farmers or the labourers or the lower middle class. The government belongs to a top two percent of the elite of this country. And this is a dangerous message to go across, no matter how highly the people of that party may think of themselves,” reported RJD leader Manoj Jha to ANI in Delhi.

Unbeatable odds?

The union of RJD, JD(U), Congress, and NCP under the Janata Parivar presents a formidable challenge to the NDA which in turn includes Upendra Khuswaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and former chief Minister Jitan Ram Ram Manjhi’s Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM). The combination of JD (U), RJD, and Congress amounts to 45% vote. This is unbeatable given that the three parties maintain a good understanding about seats and refrain from splitting their votes. Last year, the BJP and LJP together received just 36% votes but they managed nearly 80% of the seats because their opposition was fragmented even though it had a high percentage of votes.

BJP seems to be in a tricky situation as per what a senior BJP leader (who wished to remain anonymous) reported; “The BJP in Bihar is a divided house. To project a leader from either the OBCs or the upper castes as a chief minister candidate would antagonize the other group. BJP is not in a position to project any one person against Nitish Kumar, who was declared chief ministerial candidate by Janata Dal-United (JD-U), Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress and National Congress Party (NCP) alliance” .

Only time will tell what happens in the assembly elections to be held in Bihar later this year. One thing is certain though, from the election of Mr. Modi as the Prime Minister and AAP’s win in the state elections, to the formation of the first of their kind alliances – the face of Indian Politics is changing!

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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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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