Why I Think BJP’s Loss Is Modi’s Win

As victors of India’s state elections boast in celebration and political commentators clamor to analyze how the BJP’s defeat in assembly elections signal everything from winds of change in the Hindu belt to the anger of the farmers with the incumbent BJP and the shattering of Hon’bl Prime Minister’s vision of a Congress-Mukt Bharat, this might be a time to do a real pulse check on what it might actually mean on ground.

Yes, defeat in the state elections might come as a blow to BJP, but on the whole, it might have benefited Modi personally for the 2019 vision.

To understand why, let’s rewind the clock to three-months ago, before the campaigning for the state elections had started gaining real momentum. We are in an India where BJP is the dominant power, and although polls show that next year’s elections are going to be an uphill task, everyone still very much bets on a Modi victory, none more than the various fractured factions of opposition, be it a lost Congress or the various regional and interest parties.

In this India of three months ago, let’s ask: What are the threats to the cult of Modi? There are no obvious external threats. There’s no leader (yes, Rahul Gandhi, I’m looking at you) who comes even close to Modi’s national appeal. The only real threat to the Cult of Modi is internal.

But Why?

Two reasons, first, BJP under Amit Shah has built perhaps the most complicated and effective campaigning machinery that the world has ever seen, which uses propaganda, technology, communalism and grassroots outreach to set the national discourse and political agenda. In nearly four years of kendriya sarkar and a growing state and local power, BJP has shown incredible restraint and influence in being able to drive the public discourse.

Second, although the details are tailored to suit perceptions and address the audience’s concerns, the central theme is to build a cult of Modi. From efforts to equal him with the giants like Nehru, to maintaining an unblemished reputation as a herald of progress, Amit Shah’s political engine sings one tune with incredible discipline, Narendra Modi.

It’s the cult of Modi, not the banner of BJP or the mission of the RSS that is the battle-cry. There are a plethora of articles which discuss how Modi is the balancing act between the RSS’ Hindutva, Atal Bihari’s pragmatism and the democratic realities of BJP, but Modi’s rise to power has also come at the cost of many of BJP’s leaders and factions, the most easily citable being Advani. For all his rhetoric against Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Modi is doing to BJP what she did to Congress: BJP is Modi, Modi is BJP. And that comes at the cost of ambitions of many within the BJP.

In the last Lok Sabha elections, people did not vote for the candidate, did not so much vote for the party, but for one man: Modi. Contrast it with the recent state elections: It was not an election for Modi, it was but a referendum on Shivraj Singh Chauhan or Vasundahra Raje. Yes, all the King’s horses and all the King’s men and the King himself threw in support, but the question was not if Modi is the best Prime Minister, but if BJP is a good party.

What these elections do is help Narendrabhai consolidate absolute power within BJP and RSS well ahead of the general elections. BJP, now humbled and shocked, can turn once again to their savior, to their ONLY beacon, the only route to power: Modi. The cult of personality was first sold to the country, now it is sold to BJP. Disposing internal rivals, even at short term political cost to the party is nothing new for Modi: from Haren Pandya to Vajpayee himself, Modi’s rise to power has no dearth of friendly fire.

The strength of BJP’s election machine is still very much there, with all its billions of rupees, its grand central yojnas and WhatsApp groups; only now it is sure to sing in complete harmony. While the popularity of BJP might have declined, the popularity of Modi is yet to be tested, and today’s results only make Modi more dangerous and potent, not just above scrutiny of the media and the courts, but also firmly above the scrutiny of his own party.

Reminds me that in the game of chess, castles, knights and queens are all sacrificed to make the king win.

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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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