Opinion: From ‘Pappu’ To ‘Baazigar’, Rahul Gandhi Has Had An Incredible Transformation

When American Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren had an embarrassing query, “Why does Trump’s picture show up in the word ‘idiot’ search results on the Google?”, Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded by explaining to the Congress how Google’s algorithm collates data from millions of web pages collected and stored to generate results for a term that is searched on its engine. In this context, it means that thousands of people have uploaded images of Trump with ‘idiot’ as a tag resulting in the disagreeable association. When a keyword is searched the images come up with those images that use the term as a Meta tag technically.

Similarly, the ruling party’s leaders, workers and committed bands of supporters ensured that even a Google search for the term ‘Pappu’ returned with the profile of Rahul Gandhi. Seemingly extending the mock-name for Rahul Gandhi since the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP politicians left no chance to squander in teasing him. It goes as a good or a bad taunt. It has no effect on him as he was said to have cleared it that he did not mind people calling him ‘Pappu’.

Politicians of all hues know and understand the sense popularised behind the term even if Sara Ali Khan would not be grasping the meaning of her oft-repeated word “Maa Ki Aankh”. However, the Congress Party’s one-year-old chief Rahul Gandhi, incidentally a scion of Nehru-Indira Gandhi lineage, is no longer a ‘Pappu’. He has been attacking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi by bringing the Rafael fighter jet deal scam to the forefront.

He seemed to have come under acutely tremendous pressure to do better than ‘Pappu’ in order to wrest his initiative as has resulted in three legislative assemblies’ polls. Had he been a declared novice in the country’s political arena, his party’s resurgence would not have been materialised. He appeared to have similar political tactics as Modi and Shah Company to revive people’s faith in his party. He raised farmers’ issues, youth’s issues, communal issues and other related issues for causing a dent in the BJP’s monopoly.

The BJP politicians considered him so because he was not well-versed in political nuances. Now, the emerging leader in him seemed to have understood the ways of democratic politics. For not only his party men but all and sundry would now be agreeing on his opinionated sagacity when he expressed that he had learnt a lot from Mr. Modi,  particularly on what not to do in politics. However, he was quite thoughtfully making this avowal as if in a state of ecstasy following his grand slam success in the three assembly polls in the Hindi heartland.

Thus, he has put the maturity of his political notions before us. He lost the elections in the young state of Telangana because of freebies of the TRS government like the Raythu Bandhu Scheme providing an income of Rs. 8,000 irrespective of the farm size, free insurance for the tillers to the next of their kins Rs. 5 lakh on their sudden death, to 24 hours power supply in agricultural areas. Now, TRS plans to increase Kalyana Lakshmi grant up to Rs. 1 lakh from Rs. 50,000. The one-bed flat or two-bedroom house is not beyond the reach of the poor. Mothers on a delivery of male child receive Rs. 13,000, and Rs. 15,000 on a girl child at government hospitals. The state government bears the cost of education, housing, residence and food at government schools. It will also increase the reservation of minorities to 17% in education and jobs. Higher education and drinking water are also on the priority list.

He lost Mizoram because of the locals’ aspirations. What disturbs the BJP the most is Rahul Gandhi’s entry into the three main states, which is in no way digestible to the saffron party. He shattered the idea of Congress-free India through his re-emergence and here he looks like Mughal ruler Humayun who established his rule after several defeats by Shershah Suri. He stands here like his grandmother Indira Gandhi in his political will.

He now talks about the country’s politics like an older mind of Narendra Modi. He could trap him by his strategies in the coming parliamentary polls. He has shown his nearest political rival how he should behave like a mannered person now. The rival party must now be forced to ponder that Rahul Gandhi sheds his ‘Pappu’ image at an age of nearly fifty years and this tag is gradually packing off to the annals of snarky social media commentary. He is getting ready to move from the underdog to become an effective contender on the political horizon.

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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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