Is The Indian National Congress A Left-Wing Party Or A Right-Wing Party?

Definitions of left-wing party and right-wing party are very different with respect to Indian Polity. It is not faithful to read them from a western perspective.

Let’s first try to understand the differences between the position of left-wing and right-wing parties in India.

Right-wing political parties in India appreciate supreme religion, they promote tradition, culture and patriotism, they are pro-army, pro-business economy, they encourage capitalism and privatisation, they believe judiciary must punish lawbreakers more severely, they uplift conservatism.

Left-wing political parties demand separation of religion from governance, they don’t appreciate spending handsomely on the army. They don’t highly promote tradition and culture, they easily support amendments in them. They are not very loud on celebrating patriotism, they believe government should play a role in people’s lives and overall development, they are against privatisation and capitalism, they want government to control all key resources and business. They encourage special protection and privileges for depressed classes, labourers, Dalits, and minorities, they want legal system to be less strict, and they promote welfare programs for poor and peasants.

Now, as you are familiar with the polity of LEFT and RIGHT, it is time for me to answer the main question,

Is The Indian National Congress A Left-Wing Party Or A Right-Wing Party?

Answer: at present they are neither left nor right.

Rahul Gandhi’s Indian National Congress is Left of Centre. But things were totally different in the past. During India’s Independence Movement, Congress party had a good amount of traditionalist and conservative leaders. In those periods, INC many a times was popularly called as a Hindu party, specially upper caste Hindu party. Though there were many socialist liberal leaders as well in the party.

After Independence, Congressman Jawaharlal Nehru got the opportunity to shape India’s future. Nehru was a staunch socialist, he wanted India to be a socialist democratic republic. Well, socialism is not a true form of communism. So it is incorrect to draw a sketch of Nehru with a red flag, socialism is different from both communism and conservatism.

While governing India, Nehru was not alone; some notable conservative leaders like Sardar Patel and Rajaji also played a huge role in building the nation. India’s first President Dr. Rajendra Prasad was a traditionalist and a follower of right-wing politics. And there were many conservative leaders inside Congress party at various state levels as well.

Individually, Nehru was neither a leftist nor a fan of right-wing politics. Nehru was at the centre. Well, surely he was impressed with socialist ideas and did promote many social programs and schemes. But it is also true that during that time the Indian National Congress initiated law on cow slaughter, and restored Somnath Temple (yes, there was a conflict between Nehru and Prasad regarding restoration of Somnath but finally restoration did happen and President Rajendra Prasad himself initiated that).

After Nehru, Indira Gandhi, like her father, trusted socialist values and hence added the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ to the Preamble. And she also promoted special welfare schemes for depressed classes.

Later, Congress prime minister PV Narasimha Rao and his finance minister Manmohan Singh took a different road with opening up of the economy in 1991. And during Manmohan Singh’s sarkar Congress tried some social welfare schemes like MNREGA, Food Security Bill, etc.

Post Mandal Commission implementation and post Babri Masjid demolition, the Indian National Congress played a lot of appeasement politics specially appeasement of minorities and they slowly started turning left. They also started forming alliances with caste based, allegedly corrupt regional political parties. Though Manmohan Singh’s Congress initiated centrist economic policies, and liberal social policies like MNREGA, RTI, etc.

Right now, Rahul Gandhi is the president of Congress and we saw him saying that Modi Sarkar is against farmers, labourers, Dalits and minorities. He keeps targeting Modi by saying that Modi Sarkar is only friendly towards big businessmen. His leaders advocate against Ram Janma Bhumi. He is swinging between left and right. They also raised questions on the Surgical Strike and the Army. He and his party are still famous for playing minority appeasement politics.

Therefore, right now Rahul Gandhi is steering his party as a left-of-centre.

And it is also important to educate ourselves that Narendra Modi’s saffron party BJP is not completely qualified to win the position of right-wing party. It is true that they are pro-army, they are promoting Hindutva, they are planting privatisation, and they are somewhat supporting traditionalists. But BJP has also initiated many social welfare programs and schemes. BJP also has a socialist mindset.

Therefore, according to me BJP is Right of Centre.

In Bihar, BJP is allied with JDU and JDU is a strong supporter of socialism. Whereas, in Maharashtra BJP is allied with Shiv Sena and Shiv Sena is famous for its strong Hindutva agenda.

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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.

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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.

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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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