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Review: Mohan Bhagwat Will Play A Crucial Role In 2019 Elections, Contends New Biography

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The future of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP’s prospects in the 2019 general elections lie in the hands of Rashtriya Swyam Sevak Sangh (RSS), particularly RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, argues a new biography on Bhagwat. Senior journalist Kingshuk Nag, in his new book titled Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, not only sketches out Bhagwat’s personal and professional journey but also reflects on how the ‘social organisation’ influences the government of the day.

Nag, known for his previous biographies on PM Modi and BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee, avers that it was RSS that helped Modi coast to power in 2014 and that the Hindu nationalist organisation will play a crucial role in BJP’s 2019 prospects. Nag’s 185-page account of Mohan Bhagwat’s life and career contends that ‘to ensure that the BJP wins the 2019 elections, the RSS is getting into the nuts and bolts of the next polls. While Bhagwat and the senior leaders in the RSS do worry about Modi’s declining popularity and opposition’s attempt to forge a grand united front, BJP remains Bhagwat’s best bet to achieve RSS long-harboured dream of ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

“RSS’ top brass realises that only if the BJP wins the election can the agenda of the Sangh be furthered. This means that over the next few months, the RSS would want to have a greater say over policymaking and appointments and, of course, election strategies,” postulates the new book published by the Rupa publications.

According to the book, in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls showcasing of Modi government’s achievements, SC’s Ram Mandir verdict, party’s outreach in states like Kerala, West Bengal, and Jammu and Kashmir, and the Pakistan challenge are crucial topics for the RSS and its saffron political outfit in the ensuing elections.

Quintessential Organisational Man

According to Nag’s account, Bhagwat was born and brought up in RSS backyard, and the organisation’s ideologies run in his blood. His grandfather Nanasaheb was RSS founder KB Hegdewar’s close aide, his father was a Gujarat-based RSS pracharak, and his mother was an active member of the organisation’s women’s group. Nag claims that Bhagwat realised his heart’s calling very early in life and joined the RSS at the age of 25 as a full-timer.

In 1991, Bhagwat was appointed the Akhil Bharatiya Sharirik Pramukh and from here started his journey to become the RSS chief and one of the most influential man in the country at present. Nag argues that Bhagwat’s appointment as RSS chief brought in several new changes within the organisation. He is the first RSS member from Maharashtra to become Sarsanghchalak. Further, he introduced new attire for the swayamsevaks symbolising the visible changes within the RSS to keep up with the changing times.

The book asserts that Bhagwat has a long-term plan for the organisation and is committed to ensuring that Sangh realises its dream of making India ( RSS likes to call it Bharat) a Hindu nation that is inclusive of all faiths, including Islam, but rejects the European culture and thinking. Further, ever since 2009, when Bhagwat was appointed as RSS chief, the organisation has been making significant attempts to make inroads into the Northeast. The results of Bhagwat’s groundwork and outreach programme were reflected in Assam and Tripura elections where BJP formed the government last year. Also, under Bhagwat’s tutelage, RSS is actively reaching out to Dalits under its social outreach programme called Samajik Samrasta( social equality).

Abki Baar Kiski Sarkar

Nag argues that BJP’s victory in 2019 is the essential condition for the RSS to further its ‘nation-building’ agenda. This is why the ruling party has seen increased crossovers from RSS in the past four years.

While Bhagwat has lent his support to the Modi-led BJP, he likes to keep Modi in check. It’s widely known that Modi wasn’t Bhagwat’s first choice but looking at Modi’s tireless effort to come to power at the centre and his strong commitment towards the Sangh convinced Bhagwat to put weight behind Modi. However, the book presents interesting inside details on how Bhagwat is keeping his second option ready, in case Modi fails to deliver a decisive victory.

“The RSS may not be too comfortable with Modi’s power politics and his none-too-discreet attempts to corner all the glory, but for Nagpur, he is still the best bet to keep the Hindu flag afloat. Modi campers are however aware that the Sangh may keep a (say) Nitin Gadkari under wraps. He may be pulled out of the hat if push comes to shove and if the Modi-led BJP is unable to deliver a decisive victory,” asserts Nag in his new book.

Nag’s book, Mohan Bhagwat: Influencer-in-Chief, further contends that while BJP is a political offshoot of the Sangh, RSS doesn’t limit its political support to the saffron party. The book cites several instances from the past where RSS joined hands with the Congress, especially during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure, to keep its agenda afloat. Even today, the Bhagwat-led RSS incessantly reaches out to leaders from other political outfits. This was clearly reflected in Bhagwat’s decision to invite the former president and Congress senior leader Pranab Mukherjee to visit and deliver a lecture at RSS headquarters in Nagpur in June 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.

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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.

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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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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