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Mahagathbandhan Part 2 – The Opposition’s Gift On 4 Years Of Modi Government

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At HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, a new political formula was born to fight against the electoral machine of BJP – a grand alliance of opposition parties.

A Mahagathbandhan or a grand alliance of political parties has set the stage for the upcoming battle elections against the Modi government. This formula has seemingly brought together numerous opposition parties after many years.

The BJP-led NDA government celebrated its 4-year anniversary two days back. The 38-year-old BJP has witnessed a transformational journey – from once having power in just seven states to controlling 21 states (at present). Furthermore, its seat tally in the Lok Sabha rose from 116 to 282.

It all started in 2013 when Narendra Modi was elected as the PM candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections against the ruling UPA government, which was completing its second term.

BJP’s electoral machine has marked new records in India’s political history with their sweeping wins. In four years, the BJP under the leadership of Amit Shah And Narendra Modi became more inclined to emerge as a winning machine. A ‘clean sweeper’ in the elections, whether it be the panchayat or state assembly elections, the BJP always emerged as the victor.

This BJP juggernaut has become the nightmare of opposition parties, even those that are at loggerheads with each other. It’s just that politicians have no morals when it comes to winning – something we have also seen recently in the Karnataka state elections.

This is also the reason why we need to understand this ‘grand coalition’ which may soon become a reality.

The Opposition’s show of unity during HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in ceremony.

1. Mamata Banerjee and Sitaram Yechury: Both were together on the stage on Wednesday in Karnataka.

Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been the chief minister of West Bengal from 2011. On the other hand, Sitaram Yechury hails from CPM, the opponent of TMC in Bengal.The Left had supported the UPA 1 government, but withdrew their support in 2008.

2. Sharad Pawar: Sharad Pawar is a former Congress leader and the president of the National Congress Party (NCP). He left the Congress in 1999 after opposing Sonia Gandhi’s decision to contest as Congress’ PM candidate. He then formed the NCP – with the prime agenda to stop Sonia Gandhi from becoming PM.

On Wednesday, both were seen raising hands together on the same stage.

3. Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati: At the state level, both these leaders are extreme rivals, and have frequently criticised each other’s parties in the past. The Mayawati government had even arrested Mulayam Singh Yadav (Akhilesh’s father) once.

4. HD Deve Gowda: HD Deve Gowda of Janata Dal (United) took oath as the 11th Prime Minister of India on June 1, 1996. But soon, his government fell apart on April 21, 1997, after the Congress withdrew its support.

Despite their clashing histories, all of them had gathered together during the swearing-in ceremony of Kumaraswamy as Karnataka’s 18th CM, who has formed a coalition government with the Congress.

When it comes to politics, history repeats itself too often. The current situation reminds me of two cases.

1. In 1975, all the parties came against another powerful PM Indira Gandhi, as the Janata Party took charge with Morarji Desai as the first non-Congress PM. But the grand coalition did not last longer than two years and 126 days.

2. In 1989, when parties united against PM Rajiv Gandhi under the National Front, and VP Singh became the 7th PM of India. The BJP had supported the National Front from the outside at that time.

Today too, all these parties which have opposed each other at various times, are now united to fight Modi. After all, nearly all of them have lost in their individual fights against the BJP – and what better way to stop the BJP than by joining hands!

The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will therefore be quite interesting and a perfect case-study for political researchers and analysts.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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