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The results are out, the dust has settled and it is now time for the autopsy of the semifinal of 2019 general elections. The MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Telengana & Mizoram legislative assembly elections are considered as an indicator of the national conscious as these states are spread across the nation and have a sizeable population. And by the look of things, the grand old party of India is making a comeback while the 56’’ chest is rapidly deflating. The more pressing sign is the show of strength by the regional parties in Mizoram and Telengana which reminds me of the abominable coalition governments of Gujral, Gowda and co.

Full disclosure, I was rooting for the BJP primarily because I have faith in PM Modi, while the family politics and sycophant of Congress does not look appealing and a coalition government will undo all the economic and infrastructure progress made in the last fifteen years. But with the BJP spectacularly losing all the states I need to understand how they manage to do that. These are the five things that I believe resulted in this debacle and the possible solution that I could think of.

 1) The Anguish And Anger Of The Rural Population

By rural, I mean the farming community which includes the people, who owns farms, work in them, engage in allied activities, small time investors and even small businesses, which cater the farming needs and the family of all these people. That collectively becomes 58 to 60% of Indian population. The long marches which we saw in Delhi worked on two fronts. One, it gave the farmers a chance to vent out their anger and more importantly it showed the other 40% of the population that all isn’t so peachy. I must applaud the timing these protests and feel flabbergast how the modern day Chanakya Amith Shah and friends didn’t see this coming. Considering the fact that CPI (M), an obsolete party managed to win two seats in Rajasthan, the BJP think-tank seriously need to evaluate their thinking capabilities.

Are they blinded by success or just too arrogant to admit the facts?

2) When Fuel Burned Wallets & Votes

The last UPA régime gave the oil companies the authority to decide the price of fuel based on the global crude oil price and other factors. In a capitalist economy, the decision was a wise one but in a mixed economy like India, it ended up hurting the masses. The NDA government had more than enough time to get it right, but then the economic policies outlined by the late Prime Minister PV Narasimharao is what are being followed till date. It has made the oil industry prosperous and the government rich with taxes but literally robbed the common man. Fuel price rose sharply for the last few months, topped a record and then dropped sharply when the election was round the corner. Well people forget and forgive, but not that quickly.

Fuel is the key to economy, if it is not made affordable and stable, NDA will burn.

3) India Shining Version 2 Or A Recipe To Disaster

In 2004, the NDA government was sitting in Delhi and was pretty happy with what they had done. They had stable five years, won a war with Pakistan, blasted a couple of nuclear bombs, and the GDP was looking good. Someone cooked up the slogan ‘Indian Shining’ for the next general election and they lost it decisively. Right now, we have another NDA government about to repeat the same mistake. Yes India is in a far better position in all aspects now than in 2014 but we are not exactly shining. The farmers are in dire straits, the rural economy is yet to recover from the GST/demonetization drive and the urban population boom is negating the economic growth.

Showcase what you have achieved so far without gloating and what you are doing to give the suffering population a better life.

4) Temples And Statues

We build the tallest and the most magnificent statue in the world. And that statue honors Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the true father of the nation. I am proud of the statue and what it represent but unfortunately when people ask for bread, you can’t tell them to visit statues. Yes, using the 3,000 or so crore will not abolish poverty but you could have avoided the PR nightmare. The fact is that the media including social, anti-social, visual, print and paid is filled with liberals and closet communists. They are good with language and will pounce on each and every misstep or slip made by the régime and it is words that bring down empires more than swords. Ram Mandir was an issue in the last two decades but the better-read contemporary youth is not that into temples. You can still get a sizable crowd of devotees to fight for religious issues like Ram Mandir or Sabarimala but that does not necessarily translate to electoral victory. Not anymore.

Either control yourself or find a way to control the media.

 

5) The Yogi Menace

BJP draws its strength from the RSS and there are always two leaders – a master and an apprentice.

Syama Prasad Mukherjee and AB Vajpayee; AB Vajpayee and LK Advani; LK Advani and Narendra Modi; Narendra Modi and Yogi Adithyanath.

I know it looks too much Star War-sy but please indulge me for a minute. In this list of leader and successor, we find two peculiar findings. One is that the master is always a statesman, a person who commands respect and is admired for his work while the successor evokes fear, dread and confusion in the mind of a layperson. But once the apprentice becomes the leader, he gets the qualities his master while he passes negative qualities to his new apprentice. Is it a true observation or does the media simply project them as such?

Presently PM Modi is the master while the Yogi is the apprentice which brings me to the second point. All the leaders in the list are veterans in politics except Yogi. They all knew the nuances of governance, the need of corporation and compromise for peace but not Yogi. Although he was a five time parliamentarian, he is known primarily as the head of a Gorakhpur based sect and a firebrand communal orator. In today’s India, what we need is a leader with the vision of Naramsiharao, the policies of Manhohan Singh and the determination of Narendra Modi. Grooming Yogi and for the prime position, allowing him to spit fire and banking on polarizing the community for gains will not help you win 2019.

Reign in Yogi, let PM Modi be the torch bearer of NDA for the general elections 2019.

Apart from these prime reasons, the anti-incumbency factor, alienation of multiple castes, unusual competency shown by Rahul Gandhi, etc. snowballed into this election result. The only positive note is that the vote share percentage between NDA and UPA is just a fraction and with good governance, reduced fuel price, less anti Nehur-van rhetoric, judicious use of Hinduvata and a more down to people approach, the NDA can still salvage the general election of 2019.

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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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