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Congress V BJP: The Battle Of Ideologies

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From “Scandalous Nehru” to “Tinpot Shastri”, from “Wicked Indira Gandhi” to her “self-serving” son-Rajiv Gandhi, from “Insignificant Narasimha Rao” to the “Italian-born” Sonia Gandhi and “mute” Manmohan Singh. And now “Pappu” Rahul Gandhi. The Bharatiya Janata Party has branded them all.  

Amid an exponential rise in the politics of marketing and branding, a pitiable Congress failed to counter even a single one of these deplorable slanders. The BJP kept shaming its 70 years of governance, and forget about defending themselves with full integrity, they didn’t even point out their remarkable economic and social development data from the last ten years.                        

Well, understanding the Indian National Congress has always been a challenge, mostly because it has never remained ‘constant’. Be it in terms of ideology or organisational structure, the INC has changed itself time and again. The Congress under Nehru and the early years of Indira saw a socialist approach towards development, which changed drastically under Rajiv and then under Narasimha Rao.  

The voters in India have mostly supported the party which is able to present a strong and confident case of its ideology. No matter how deceiving and contradictory their ideology sounds, as long as they have it and present it right, they will win. It is in this sense that the Indian National Congress has had an edge over every other party in India. Whatever their approach might be, they always had an ideology and a vision ready to present to their voters – until Sonia Gandhi happened.

Sonia Gandhi, with her coalition gimmicks, led INC to a path of victory even without a political ideology. It is safe to say that despite several wonderful initiatives like NREGA, RTI, RTE, Food Security Bill and the futuristic Aadhar – she failed to stitch these into a political ideology in sync with Indian ambitions. And it is this ideological void which the BJP countered with their softcore Hindutva, Modinomics and Gujarat Model of Development (at least until late 2016, after which hardcore Hindutva has been dominating). It is essential to note here that it was never BJP’s Hindutva that led them to power, be it in 1998 or 2014. But if the Congress fails to fill the void, I am afraid that the reality is Hindutva might lead BJP to power in 2019.

The BJP very smartly has been setting the ground for the same over the past few years by polarising the nation on the basis of religion, caste, language, and even water, and yet they are successfully painting an image wherein it is the Congress which is responsible for all these deeds (as seen in the Gujarat Elections). They have been altering the conscience of the people of this nation by feeding them extensively dangerous content through social media and WhatsApp. They have been dominating a certain section of media without letting the general public get wary of it. How? By saying its the other half of the media that is being dominated by the Congress, and their half is just the neutral one.

And if not stopped in 2019- when they will be winning an election purely on the basis of Hindutva – defeating them in future will become much more difficult for Congress. The BJP will get enough boost and confidence to fulfil the core agenda of RSS, an agenda which it has been pushing since its inception – that of a Hindu nation. And unfortunately, like caste-based reservation, there won’t be any going back.

Why Will 2019 Be The Year Of Hindutva For BJP?

Unlike UPA-I, which presented NREGA, RTI and its admirable economic and social agenda as its flagship policies with a generous enough impact on the lives of people, the BJP has nothing to present except Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – which too is limited to just railway stations. Their Jan Dhan Yojna had little impact on lives of account holders and Make in India hasn’t really been able to deliver jobs and revenue (expect to a select few campaign donors- Baba Ramdev included). Demonetisation and GST will certainly demonise them, and the rest are repackaged and rebranded policies – some of the UPA era and some even older. Now, one might argue that these repackaged policies are being implemented more enthusiastically – but the truth is the people have seen it all in UPA-I and early UPA-II years and they won’t vote in the name of these repackaged policies.

So what else is left with Modi? Hindutva. Gujarat was an example of this – when everything else failed, Hindutva saved them. But as always, people showed their resistance to voting just in the name of Hindutva, reducing their tally significantly.

The Way Out?

Congress needs to present its own ideology – whatever it might be, people need an ideology to vote for. And they need it immediately, otherwise, the nation will vote for Hindutva. Or, for all the optimistic readers out there, let’s hope together that the BJP changes its path, and presents new and real flagship policies in Budget 2018.

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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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