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What Mayawati Needs To Do To Win Back The Trust Of Dalit Voters In UP

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Zero Lok Sabha seats, 19 State Assembly seats and six Rajya Sabha seats – this is what remains in the kitty of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Kanshi Ram pioneered the party to raise a voice for the welfare of the Bahujan class and that’s why the party enjoys the Dalit electoral trust.

But, going by the results of the recent election, this electoral trust is seemingly swaying towards neophyte Dalit politicians or Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The biggest setback that the BSP suffered was in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Back then, it contested on all 545 Lok Sabha seats but did not manage to win a single seat. Subsequently, BSP’s performance was poor in the 2017 UP assembly elections. It bagged only 19 out of the 403 seats. It could not even manage to win in Dalit-dominated areas like Agra and Mathura. Out of the 86 seats, BSP won a mere two seats.

The roller-coaster political ride of BSP is presently at its worst phase. Dalit voters are the bricks of the BSP and they have helped the party in past elections too. After all, they helped Mayawati to come to power in Uttar Pradesh four times.

But, in recent times, this Dalit electoral trust has swayed  to other parties like the BJP. In the 2017 UP assembly election, BSP gave 12.50% of their seats to Jatavs but were not able to bag a single seat there. In contrast, 7.12% of BJP’s winning candidates were Jatavs. Additionally, the rise of neophyte Dalit politicians like Jignesh Mevani and Chandrasekhar has also adversely affected the BSP.

This year, Mayawati also resigned from the Rajya Sabha apparently because the Chairman did not let her speak. At that time, there were rumours that she would contest the Lok Sabha by-election from Phulpur. But, even these rumours were disproved.

The biggest challenge for Mayawati is changing votes into seats. In the 2017 UP assembly election, BSP received 22.2% votes, which translated to a mere 19 seats. This share was 3.70% less than what the party gained in 2012. But, the corresponding drop in seat share is 76.25% – down from the 80 seats it got in the state assembly election prior to the one in 2017.

The BSP had come to power in Uttar Pradesh in 2007. In that election, the party had bagged 206 seats with a 30.43% vote share. The party should re-strategise its plan so that it can address this mismatch between vote share and vote seats.

The allegations of Mayawati demanding money from party members should also be a cause of worry for her. The exit of party stalwarts like Naseemuddin Siddiqui, Swami Prasad Maurya, Indrajit Saroj has only made her political journey more bumpier. After all, these politicians were also big faces among the backward castes in UP.

Mayawati also needs to expand her base among the castes. Today, the BSP has a negligible presence among the more than 40 Dalit castes in UP.  In contrast to this, the BJP-RSS is not leaving any chance to appease these castes.

The interesting thing is that Mayawati did not attend Lalu’s “BJP Bhagao, Desh Bachao” rally. This probably signified her disinterest in the Grand Alliance for 2019 election, as she stressed more on the need to discuss seat sharing than anything else.

Now, the so-called ‘Dalit messiah’ is handling her party herself. She has kicked-off her 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign with a rally in Meerut, and plans to hold a rally every month in the state.

It will be interesting to see whether Mayawati changes her orthodox Dalit appeasement politics or not. But if Mayawati really wants to come into the mainstream of Indian politics again, she needs to ponder upon these challenges.

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Featured image source: Deepak Gupta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
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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.

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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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