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How AAP Is Making The Best Of The Power Battle Between Kejriwal And The Centre

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By Sumit Jain:

The last fifteen days have certainly not been the nicest for Indian politics. I am not talking about the attacks made by BJP’s Subramanian Swamy on Raghuram Rajan or Finance Ministry adviser Arvind Subramanian, but the drama going on in Delhi between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung and the Bhartiya Janta Party. With political bashing touching another low (compared to the election time), it seems a lot remains to unfold.

AAP was formed in 2012 when there was a rift between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal over entering electoral battles. The party was based on the promise of delivering honest politics, a claim made by its party members even today. After forming a minority government (with the support of congress) and then resigning over the lack of consensus for passing the Jan Lokpal bill (one of its key pre-poll promises) in the State Assembly, the party got a thumping majority with 67 seats in an assembly of 70 in 2015.

Since then, their strategy and ambitions seem clear. The party is campaigning hard for the coming state assembly elections in Punjab and has announced it will be fighting the ballot in Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat (all NDA ruled states); going all-out to fulfill its national ambitions. It tried to do the same in the 2014 general elections in a hustle but their plans could not materialize because of poor planning and strategy making. The party then took note of some basic issues like health and education in Delhi and then capitalized on some of its policies like slashing the prices of electricity and water bills, allocating 23 per cent of the Delhi government’s annual budget to education sector and establishing mohalla clinics in the capital. While their achievements, like the implementation of odd-even rule, made in the past fifteen months will remain debatable (the party at large has failed to convince the population about its positive effect on the environment), what many people have failed to observe is the reason behind its continuous tussle with the BJP at centre.

AAP realises it has 67 MLAs and few MPs in a country which sends more than 4,000 MLAs to state assemblies and almost 700 MPs to the Parliament. For if it has to accomplish its national goal, remaining LIVE in national media is mandatory (nation-wide media coverage of party’s agendas was one of the important pillars in BJP’s strategy as well for 2014 general elections). While launching good policies do bring some media attention (at least in Delhi), AAP was (is) not content with the same. It seems it has decided to drag the central government in issues related to the governance of Delhi and elsewhere. While it then loses on cooperation and support from the government of India, coverage on prime-time and front page of national dailies is guaranteed. The spread of social media has made this job quite easy for the party (BJP leaders, now famous for remaining pro-active on Facebook/Twitter, too used this quite effectively in 2014 general elections).

To say that the behaviour of government of India towards AAP was noble will be grave injustice to the latter. In fact from control of Delhi Police to that of Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), it is the central government which has proved to be a trouble-maker in the whole scenario. AAP tried its best to wrestle the control of ACB in order to probe the charges put against Ms. Sheila Dixit (ex-CM of Delhi). It even requested the centre to handover the control of Delhi Police to UT government to improve the deteriorating law situation. But the Delhi party failed in both the cases. Obstacles, like delay in forwarding the bills and in day-to-day bureaucracy, introduced through the office of LG were (are) another hurdle for it to overcome. The raid conducted by CBI on Mr. Kejriwal’s secretary’s office guaranteed some high-voltage drama.

But then even AAP has now learned a bit of politics. While it is sometimes a victim of the hegemony of the central government, it has mostly learned to play its cards. The party deliberately raises the issue of full statehood for Delhi to match its political ambitions. The party is quick to gain points by using social media to put the blame on central government in case of worsening condition of law and order (the Delhi Police and ACB both come under centre’s purview). Some stern actions taken by ACB/Delhi Police like naming Mr. Kejriwal in water tanker scam act as catalyst in implementing AAP’s strategy of playing the victim card. Recent comments made by BJP MPs combined with ‘dharna’ outside his home assure national media coverage.

There is no doubt AAP is playing a dangerous game. Its amendment (suggesting removal of the post of Parliamentary Secretary from office of Profit) being rejected by the President of India, when other states have conveniently done so, suggests who the party is locking horns with. But it seems Mr. Kejriwal is unfazed and unmoved with all of this. He looks prepared to take on every obstacle that comes between his national dream. The strategy to implement ahead is, though dangerous, crystal clear.

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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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