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Has There Been A Modi-fication Of Rahul Gandhi?

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Now everyone is talking, discussing, and making memes on Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s speech during the no-confidence motion in the parliament. Despite raising several issues in his speech, it was Mr Gandhi’s uncalled move of hugging the Prime Minister that got the mainstream media’s spotlight.He approached the Prime Minister and gave him a surprising bear hug leaving both Modi and his cohorts bewildered. Though the entire episode superficially seemed to a fit of passion, it also appeared to be meticulously scripted.

Perhaps, Mr Gandhi’s unprecedented gesture was in line with his the promise he made before the media a few days ago to trigger a seismic tremor within the cradle of  Indian democracy that led him to stage such an unprecedented but histrionic performance. His speech and actions reflect an inspiring and empowered leader who is not only confident, but also eloquent. Gone are the days when this scion of Gandhi family was a bundle of nerves who happened to slip his tongue on multiple public occasions. Today’s Rahul Gandhi is not just charging on the ruling party, he’s gradually turning into a real pain in the arse for the top leadership of BJP. This latest episode attests to the speculation that the next general election will again be a confrontation (like the U.S. Presidential Election, 2016) between Modi and Gandhi. Except this time, Mr Gandhi may take a bite out of Mr Modi’s rhetorics and lock horns like an astute politician who has learned to pick his way through the rubble.

However, Rahul Gandhi’s every move gives a glimpse of the “Modi effect”. His antics, speeches, and even his expressions appear as an attempt to emulate Modi. Remember the first time we saw or heard of Rahul Gandhi? Back then, media used to refer to him as  “the successor of Congress leadership”. He was young, aspiring, and soft-spoken. Although an ambivert, he never shied away from visiting a Dalit family and spend a night with them. We knew that visiting or sharing food with the poor would not change their routine household chores or destiny overnight. But, it was a token gesture that put across the message that he was with them no matter how poor or downtrodden they were. The government was working towards making their lives better.

Sometimes a gesture of benevolence and kindness is worth more than a zillion condescending services in the name of favours. People saw hope in Rahul Gandhi who was as soft-spoken as his father and former Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi and as resolute as his grandmother and one of the strongest Indian Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi. He was supposedly the first and still is the only leader who goes by his gut and acknowledges that it is by virtue of nepotism and dynastic hierarchy in Congress, he is the party’s President.

At the same time, he makes sure that such a malady of dynastic possession, the obvious nepotism which has become an heirloom of Congress must not go on after him. He also noticed that this nepotistic culture is rampant across several regional and national parties in the country as well. One can find from initial timelines (figure out from his initial days as a politician – is much better) that he never strived to slip into the shoes of a cunning, shrewd politician. Rather, slowly but steadily, he was slithering towards becoming a strong and polite leader who could carry forth the legacy of his great-grandfather, Pandit Nehru and grandmother, Indira Gandhi, to new heights.

Somebody of Indian sanskaars, will never display such demeanour as respect for elders is the basic expectation in our culture.

So, what went wrong? I presume every goal is achieved through perseverance and meticulous effort. Rahul Gandhi lacked both. His life is full of contradictions wherein his every step forward is followed by a myopic decision taking him two steps back. Every election, he blesses his party members with his presence like a Halley’s Comet, appearing only when elections are around the corner and vanishing as soon as the legislative carnival bids adieu. This tendency to revert to lackadaisical political hibernation has become his quintessential foible which still haunts Congress. This weakness in Rahul Gandhi has not only left Congress in a quandary but also willing to seek recourse in his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Many party members are quitting or struggling to embolden their leadership without any direction from the Party President.

The new avatar of Rahul Gandhi is merely a replica of Narendra Modi. While flaunting his panache with Modi’s temperament, Rahul Gandhi is neither relatable nor convincing. All of his newly acquired aggression and muscle flexing, his angry ‘middle-aged’ man attitude is orchestrated with help from a coterie of advisers who are completely detached from the country’s ground realities. What we are watching is a gullible guy picking up the slack to be the leader of the opposition. Meanwhile, the nation is worried by the growing RSS-patronized agitation and escalating attrition between majority and minority communities. India is currently facing numerous hurdles on various fronts which are obstructing its sustainable development.

Rahul Gandhi could be the answer to such a situation. But he can’t become the answer by stepping into the shoes of Narendra Modi. Firstly, because this is neither his personality nor does it suit him, regardless of what he and his courtiers think. Secondly, he fails miserably. Take for instance, the speech he delivered which was both soporific and disinteresting I feel. Neither did it comprise anything new, nor was it something really relevant and cogent. His claims against the Rafael deal were declined by the media spokesperson of the French Government. This makes him no different from Narendra Modi who is infamous for quoting wrong statistics and facts during his otherwise marvellous oratory. Rahul Gandhi, on the other hand, is untenable when he makes an error. But, he gives in before the opposition, only to be subjected to even more humiliation.

One doesn’t need much effort to discover the sheer contrast in his motive and conduct. Like before, he hugged the Prime Minister to manifest the open-heart and liberal mindset of the opposition having no issue in accepting the BJP. Had he remained calm and composed for a while, at least till the end of the session, the Congress would have gained an upper hand over the BJP. But our ‘Southpaw’ laidback and committed one minor mistake of winking on camera. This not only backfired but may have long-term repercussions where everything that’s well-crafted and executed by the Congress may end up going in vain.

The contrast in both his actions proves that Rahul Gandhi needs to introspect and reinstate his inherent traits which made him one of the country’s most beloved politicians. One doesn’t need to join the evil if one fails at beating it. Rahul Gandhi doesn’t need to behave like Narendra Modi or follow his intransigent, erratic, and repulsive version of nationalism and Hinduism. Instead, he should stick to the legacy of his great-grandfather Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who once said, “Ultimately what we really are matters more than what other people think of us.”

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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.

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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.

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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)’.

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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.”

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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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