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Decoding Assembly Election Results In The Hindi Heartland

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The much awaited results of the ‘semi-final’ for 2019 Lok Sabha elections came as a big shot in the arm for the BJP. In 2013, the BJP won Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh and it came to power at the Centre a year later, becoming the first party in 30 years to win a full thumping majority. Since the Lok Sabha elections four and a half years ago, there have been 22 elections. The BJP has been able to form the government after 14 of those polls. This resulted in the outright dominance of the party across the country. But the assembly election results have now ended the dream run of the saffron juggernaut. The BJP’s dream of ‘Congress-Mukt’ bharat has suffered a huge blow and results are resonating the message that one should never write the obituary of a grand old party or its leadership that early.

Here is what the verdict means for the BJP. Yes, it had been in power for 15 long years in MP and Chhattisgarh, there was a cyclical pattern of change in Rajasthan and it was not a major player in Telangana & Mizoram. But the fact is that there is disappointment and distress that has built across the very classes and social groups which voted for BJP in the past. There has been a drop across the board in terms of the party’s vote share and seat share. Infact, a large number of sitting BJP ministers lost their own seats in the election.

BJP has paid a huge price for rural, farmer and agrarian distress. Farmers are furious for not getting prices they aspired for. Traders and small businesses are worst hit with the continuing slowdown because of demonetisation and GST. The youth is upset over lack of employment. The upper castes ‘savarnas’ which were the traditional BJP vote-bank today feel that the party has turned against them, while Dalits are getting increasingly angry, especially after increase in incidents of violence against them. And rest of the voters are exhausted with what they see as the continued thrust of the ruling party to push religious polarisation, which is a mere distraction from the real and core issues. Although Modi still remains the most popular leader in the country, his economic policies and governance is increasingly coming under closer scrutiny and is now being questioned by all quarters.

The impression of invincibility that the BJP had acquired and projected under the leadership of PM Modi and Amit Shah ever since its decisive sweep in 2014, has now been punctured. Ahead of the 2019 parliamentary elections, this delivers a momentum to the challenger, Congress, and a reality check to the ruling party, BJP for self-introspection.

It can now be assumed that the 2019 contest is open and BJP can’t take it for granted. The direct face-off between the Congress and BJP in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh has given a new boost to the morale of Congress party. This is also Rahul Gandhi’s first real victory as president of his party — exactly at the time he completed one year in office. Gandhi has displayed remarkable management skills and led from the front this time. This win will not only boost the morale of Congress cadres but will also enhance its bargaining power with regional parties, generate more resources and make Rahul the principal leader to take on Modi in 2019.

But the road ahead is not at all easy. If the Congress fails to deliver to farmers and does not manage to create jobs, and meet all the promises it has made in its manifesto, then this power will slip away. The Congress must also know that voters are very aware of how to distinguish between national and state elections. In state elections, they vote on local factors or state issues, whereas in national elections they will vote to elect the prime minister of the country.

Moreover in these assembly elections also, baring Chattisgarh the margin of Congress victory is very slim. BJP has given a tough fight both in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. Even after 15 years of strong anti-incumbency, to deliver 109 seats in MP by Shivraj Singh Chauhan is something quite spectacular and astonishing. In Rajasthan too, which was expected to be a done deal for Congress became a close fight between the two parties. Hence, present victory is no way an indication of a win in 2019. The Congress should be ready to really slog it out.

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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, 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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