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Grand Alliance Or Brand Modi? Bihar Elections Leave Experts Guessing

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By Jai Prakash Ojha for Youth Ki Awaaz: 

As most of us are aware by now, the exit polls have failed to predict a clear winner in the recently concluded Bihar Assembly Elections. News X predicted a win for the Grand Alliance with 130 – 140 seats as against 90 – 100 for NDA, while Chanakaya Today proclaimed a comfortable win for the NDA with 155 seats and the Grand Alliance losing badly with less than 90 seats. Few other channels that I saw yesterday gave indications of a close contest between the rival parties with RJD-JDU-Congress combine holding a slight edge. As expected, leaders of both the camps flashed victory signs before the cameras, though till now, both Amit Shah and Nitish Kumar are yet to come out with their statements.

bihar exit poll election 2015

Difficult To Know The Minds Of Bihar Voters

A significant section of the electorate in the state, particularly those belonging to weaker sections like EBCs and Dalits, are averse to disclosing their voting preferences. They often tend to get away with saying what you want to hear rather than revealing what is inside. The exit polls may or may not be correct as previous elections for LS and State assemblies have shown; when they start singing different tunes, things become more confusing. The conventional wisdom of the Bihar electorate has not been easy to fathom and it has on more than one occasion outthought the media and intellectuals. So, much importance may not be attached to the outcome of exit polls and surveys.

No Effect Of Reservation Controversy

Many experts, including the RJD chief, feel that the reservation controversy worked to the advantage of the Grand Alliance but considering the ground realities, has it really been so? The vote share that NDA may get, even by the most pessimistic of projections, will not be less than 35-36 percent. Upper castes have supported NDA overwhelmingly, but they constitute only 15 -16 percent of the state population. Upper OBCs like Yadavs and Kurmis would anyway have not gone for BJP. From where will NDA pick up the other 20-25 percent of votes that the exit polls have shown and that too, when the 16 percent strong minority population has voted in consolidation against it? Hence, it is but natural to assume that the EBCs and Dalits have voted in good measure for NDA. This gives hope to BJP and the party may surge ahead. Bhagwat may have done no more than marginal damage that has been offset by the likes of Manjhi, Kusawaha and Ram Vilas Paswan.

Bihar has never been enamoured with Hindutva politics ever since its inception in the early nineties. This was billed as a battle between Mandal and Kamandal or in other words, between forwards and backwards. Even if the alliance wins, the fact that BJP has become a strong pole in Bihar and the traditional Mandal alliance has shown signs of disintegration and reconfiguration in this election should give cheers to the party.

Campaigning May Not Have Worked At All

Dr. Sambhu Sharan Singh, Regional Director at IGNOU and a resident of Saharsa, has been a keen observer of political events in the state. He feels that once the electorate makes up its mind, campaigns and political speeches fail to move them. Despite all talks of communal and caste polarization, it will be a vote for change. When surveys were conducted two months before the polls, they showed the same trends as we saw in the exit polls on various channels. So, the question is, did anything change in between? Where was the need for all the acrimony, names calling and blatant caste and communal cards? If there would have been communal polarization in the elections like it happened in UP, all the exit polls would have shown a saffron surge.

No C.M. Face For NDA Has Been An Issue

Despite all adverse forecasts for Grand Alliance, Nitish remained as the most preferred C.M. choice. This trend was witnessed in Delhi Elections where despite unfavourable ratings for AAP, Kejriwal remained the people’s choice. The last minute fluctuation in voters’ choices led to his victory and that can happen in Bihar too. There was no visible anti incumbency factor with Nitish as was the case in Harayana, Jharkhand and Maharashtra with the ruling parties. Moreover, BJP played into his hands by making the election as a battle between Nitish and Modi. Overexposure of Modi may have led to the diminishing of his brand. More presence from the likes of Sushil Modi, Ravi Shankar and Nawal Kishore Yadav would have greatly enhanced the perception among the electorate that BJP has capable faces for the post of Chief Minister. The common refrain among most of the alliance supporters was – we supported Modi as PM, it’s time to have Nitish as CM. Modi can’t run Bihar from Delhi.

Despite all the analyses, no one is ready to predict anything. The electorate has carefully weighed its options and given its verdict which will become public on 8th November. One thing is certain – it will be a close contest. Till then, it’s curtains drawn.

‘Bihar Elections With Ojha’ is part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s special coverage of the Bihar 2015 elections.

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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.

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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.

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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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