The Congress Already Celebrating For 2019 Might Be Premature

The ideological tagline of ‘Congress Mukth Bharat’, by the BJP lies in tatters with the election results of five state assemblies being out today. While two states have continued the trend of voting the incumbent regional parties to power, the three major states in the Hindi heartland of the country have voted out the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and instead elected the much touted ‘finished’ and ‘destroyed’ Indian National Congress (INC) to power. Political pundits and several rationalists have started predicting this loss of the BJP as the litmus test to the final showdown of the General Elections to be held in 2019. While the theory of change of mandate and public consensus is acceptable to a certain extent, the over ambitious presumption of a similar show in the 2019 elections is still a utopian dream, far from being realized, unless proper preconditions are achieved.

Rajasthan, which has always set a general culture of anti-incumbency along with both Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh which have overseen BJP regime for fifteen long years were expected to come into the fold of voting out the BJP and electing the INC as the single largest party at least.

However, believing the notion that INC won in the three Hindi speaking states just because of its ideology would be a half-true conclusion. When MP went to polls earlier this year, the party manifesto, apart from other things, promised setting up of Gaushalas in every district in the state. Deliberate attempts as this, to capitalize on the trend of Hindutva, by playing in on a softer version of it was one of the major reasons why Congress was voted to power. The average middle class Hindu voter who doesn’t want to be a part of fanatic right-wing populism, but at the same time wants to keep his religious identity intact found the INC to be the perfect choice. The INC relied on the apathetic conditions that had been set in the states going to polls, to set its wheel rolling.

Lack of jobs and employment avenues, and the ruling party’s disregard towards the scenario is what voted the Raje government out of power in Rajasthan. On the other hand, an ideal rational view was supposed to vote it out on the grounds of both unemployment and destruction of social fabric. There was absolutely no or very less discussion on the CM’s insensitive comments towards the law and order situation in the state, and the brazen public lynching of Mohammad Afrazul by one Shambhu Lal Regar.

The declaration of Rahul Gandhi’s gotra and his frequent visit to temples, emboldened by his self-proclaimed tag of being a ‘Shiv Bhakt’ has added to his Hindu vote bank, along with keeping intact the Muslim vote bank which has sensed no threats whatsoever from this appeasement policy of soft Hindutva.

Coming to why these assembly elections will have little translation on the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, in spite of the soft Hindutva strategy is the larger than life figure of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the BJP is heavily relying on. Secondly, as it has been quite visible in Telangana and Mizoram, both the INC & the BJP have not been voted to power where there has been a regional alternative. This can have a major effect on the Lok Sabha vote bank, where the regional parties can eat into the seats of the national parties and thus hinder the growth the INC has been expecting in the states where neither it nor the BJP has been voted to power. The prime and foremost example of such a situation was witnessed back in 2014, in Odisha where the regional BJD won 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats and the BJP won the lone seat on account of its political heavyweight and senior cabinet minister Jual Oram. Thirdly, the core supporters of the BJP, believing its Hindutva agenda and hate propaganda have got explicit support from the top echelons of the BJP and it is quite improbable that they would ditch it for a party that stands for a secular nation. One of the finest examples of this is the garlanding of four criminal convicts by Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Jayant Sinha. Another example is the wrapping of the dead body of a Dadri lynching accused in a tricolor, paying no attention to his crimes whatsoever. A softer aspect is the brazen Facebook posts imploring the BJP to let go of its secularist politics and engage in the real Hindutva.

To sum it all up, the INC’s win today is a partial ideological win and partially an effect of anti-incumbency. If the Rahul Gandhi led INC aims to stake claim for the formation of a government, it should look at the larger picture of a merger with other major national parties on a long-term basis, chalking out the division of seats as well. Only then can we expect a close call on the promise and claim of Rahul Gandhi to defeat the BJP in 2019 as well.

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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.

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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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