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Has The Karnataka Election Given Us A Formidable Grand Alliance To Challenge Modi In 2019?

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In my opinion, the Karnataka election shifted the focus away from the IPL to politics. In recent times, it was one of the most interesting and bitterly-fought elections. Even the exit polls were unable to predict which way the wind was blowing.

The Congress had fought a hard campaign under Siddaramaiah, and almost bucked the anti-incumbency trend and the ‘yo-yo’ election trends in Karnataka. Modi too gave a huge impetus to the Karnataka’s BJP unit which was struggling to win Karnataka under the tainted Yeddyurappa in the final stages of campaign. The JD(S) under Kumaraswamy was seen to be consolidating its strongholds.

Finally, when the results came out, it predictably led to a hung assembly with the BJP emerging as the single largest party with 104 seats, but short of the majority mark of 112. The Congress, with 78 seats in its pocket, showed a very spontaneous and pragmatic approach by keeping its ego low and immediately moved to have a pact with the JD(S) (which had won 37 seats). It also announced that it would support JD(S) chief HD Kumaraswamy as the CM candidate of the coalition.

The deal was struck so quickly that it surprised many, including Amit Shah and the BJP – given the fact that the Congress and JD(S) had fought bitterly during the election campaign. But, the Congress, which only had Punjab, Mizoram and Pondicherry in its kitty, was clear in its message that it would save Karnataka the BJP’s clutches at any cost. Then, we had a string of developments including the governor showing huge arrogance by inviting Yeddyurappa first to form the government despite the fact that it hadn’t reached the majority mark.

Anyway, after all this highly-televised drama, the Supreme Court stepped in and asked Yeddyurappa to prove the majority within a day itself – a decision that probably denied him the opportunity to indulge in horse-trading. Consequently, Yeddyurappa resigned and allowed the Congress-JD(S) alliance to come together and form the government with HD Kumaraswamy as CM and G Parameshwara from Congress as deputy CM.

Now, the affair described above was definitely riveting and well known to all. However, what I would like to focus on is the image shown just above. Now, this is very significant. Yes – it is only a photo opportunity with a host of regional leaders and Congress leaders sharing stage. But how often have you seen Mayawati and Akhilesh, Mamata and Sitaram Yechury, Sonia Gandhi and Sharad Pawar and Rahul Gandhi and Chandrababu Naidu together?

This event is hugely significant and should be taken very seriously by the BJP, if it hasn’t been noted by Amit Shah already. After all, what the Karnataka elections achieved hadn’t been accomplished by these leaders even after repeated and prolonged negotiations. Seen in that light, the Grand Alliance or the Mahagathbandhan is very much a reality and a workable machine which has the potential to dethrone the Modi sarkar.

How Does The Grand Alliance Change The Game?  Let Us Take A Peek

If we look at the takeaways from the recently-conducted ABP News-CSDS Lokniti survey on the mood of the nation, we’ll notice that although BJP is still the single largest party and can be just near to gaining a majority along with its partners, Congress and its allies also stand to gain significantly.

According to the survey, in terms of the nationwide vote share, the NDA may get 37% votes, down from 38.5 % in 2014. The UPA may get 31% votes (up from 23%) while others can get up to 32% of the votes. So, speculatively speaking, if we add 31% and 32%, it becomes 63%.

Now, this is the significance of the Grand Alliance. Based on a simple mathematical calculation, they seem to be way ahead of the BJP . Now, what the Karnataka election has done is that it has given a real chance to the Opposition to transform this mathematical possibility into reality by bonding with each other.

1. In UP, we have seen how the coming together of the SP and the BSP in Phulpur and Gorakhpur surprised Yogi Adityanath in his own den.

2. The Congress and the JD(S) joining hands in Karnataka is the next step. For all practical purposes, the alliance should last till 2019. Furthermore, if they fight according to a pre-poll arrangement, the BJP numbers could shrink significantly.

3. In Bengal, the Left Front and the Congress seem to have formed an uneasy alliance, as Mamata seems to moving full-steam to throttle democracy in Bengal. Meanwhile, the BJP seems to be indulging in communalism in the state. Hence, the Left-Congress alliance can be expected to stem the growth of BJP in the state.

4. In Maharashtra, the Congress-NCP alliance can improve its numbers with the Shiv Sena clearly opposing Modi by splitting from the BJP.

5. The elections in MP, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and some other states are expected to be direct fights between Congress and BJP. The Congress definitely has a good chance to wrest power from the BJP in MP and Rajasthan, and improve its performance in Chhattisgarh and Gujarat by adding to its tally.

6. In Punjab, the Congress is going strong – and both the BJP-Akalis and the AAP are struggling to take on Captain Amarinder Singh. In Jammu and Kashmir, the NC-Congress alliance is bound to make a strong comeback, with the PDP-BJP alliance losing most of its credibility.

7. In the south, apart from Karnataka, the BJP doesn’t seem to be much of a player. And now, with TDP walking out of the NDA, the fate of BJP seems to have sealed in the south. In Andhra Pradesh, either the YSR Congress or the TDP will gain momentum. Both may be wary of going with the BJP , especially after the state has not been granted the special status.

In Telangana, KC Rao and the Congress are locked in a bitter fight – and KCR is looking formidable. He is looking to work with Mamata, Deve Gowda and other federal front partners, but not with the BJP. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK, Congress look all set to come back strongly with the AIADMK losing all credibility. In Kerala, either the Left will retain its power, or else, the Congress will gain. After all, both are arch-enemies of the BJP.

8. The BJP knows that its numbers will fall in north and central India. That is why it is going all out to gain the maximum mileage in states in the east and the Northeast – Bengal, Odisha, Assam and other states.

So overall, we can see the emergence of a scenario where the Congress and regional players will retain and also add to their numbers based on the grassroot-alliances and  tie-ups .

Can The Grand Alliance Offer An Alternative To Counter BJP’s Charge of ‘Modi Sarkar Vs Khichdi Sarkar’ ?

Many people would remember Indira Gandhi’s famous slogan: “Woh kehte hain Indira hatao, mai kehti hoon garibi hatao.”  This was when the entire opposition came together to fight Indira and lost badly due to the lack of credibility.

One thing is clear – no grand pre-poll arrangement between all parties is possible. State-wise alliances are needed, as are subtle pre-poll arrangements which will deliver the results. The Congress will also need to come up with a strong catch-line to counter “phir ek baar Modi sarkar” and “saaf niyat, sahi vikas” slogans of the BJP . The Congress needs to project its narrative, policies while also coming up with a catchy (possibly leftist) slogan like the “Congress ka haath aam admi ke saath” slogan in 2004.

With the larger number of farmer suicides, and protests among workers, Dalits, Muslims and even Christians, the Congress and its allies need to come up with a strong leftist alternative to the right-wing offensive of the BJP. Given that oppression, joblessness, fuel prices and inflation are peaking across the country, this alternative will have to be based on the principles of welfare economics, social justice and pluralism.

Most importantly, the Congress needs to emerge as the principal opposition party amongst its allies. If it emerges as a weak one – and in case the NDA falls short of majority mark, being unable to get sufficient allies – then leaders like Mamata Banerjee may well like to repeat the HD Kumaraswamy phenomenon at the national level. Such leaders may ask the Congress to support the ‘Grand Alliance PM candidate’ like Mamata or Mayawati or Sharad Pawar, instead of Rahul Gandhi.

Now, in my opinion, this can only lead to the formation of a weak government, which will only raise more doubts in the people’s minds. The Congress has to lead the coalition – and a ‘UPA arrangement’ is the only stable alternative to ‘Modi sarkar‘.

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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.

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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.

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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