Why Assembly Election Results In The Hindi Heartland Are Not A Cause To Cheer

Assembly elections in the key states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which were dubbed as the semi-finals before the elections of 2019 did not evoke much interest in me for a variety of reasons.

These were some of the most important states that voted for BJP in the 2014 general elections and led Modi to his spectacular victory. He went on to consolidate his supremacy over the Hindi heartland when BJP won the UP state elections as well. It was ridiculous that BJP had allowed Modi’s image to become bigger than the party itself. When Modi was asking people to vote for him during state assembly elections, he was showing total contempt and disregard for state BJP leaders and most importantly completely violating of the country’s federal governance structure. Modi as the PM has no role in the governance of any states. After 12 years of being the CM of Gujarat, I believe he knows only to think like a CM. What was even more crazy was, people were simply voting for him after hearing him during election rallies without using their own commonsense.

All his chest thumping rhetoric has come undone in the last 4 years with disastrous governance, demonetization and GST implementation. The economy of the country has stagnated and come to a grinding halt. Demonetization has almost destroyed the agricultural and MSME sectors and increased unemployment and farmer suicides. Ill-planned GST implementation has adversely affected traders and businesses. Add to this long list his penchant for helping his crony capitalist friends acquire business opportunities and forest land, helping black money hoarders escape the country, the cloud of the Rafale scam, destroying PSUs and his persistent attempt to take control over CBI and RBI. In short, the last 4 years have been a complete disaster for the country which has been clearly reflected in the election results from MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

But Modi has created a much bigger problem for the country. When he was taking sole responsibility for putting the Indian economy back on track, it was very clear to me that it was simply his rhetoric and not based on any facts. Whatever he was claiming was impossible from the economic point of view. I knew that if he failed, the country would plunge into deeper crisis. Four years ago, everyone was clamoring to free the country from the rule of the Congress party. Now everyone is desperate to liberate the country from Modi’s autocratic rule and are voting for Congress again. Modi has taken the political discourse and the governance of the country so low that we are having to cheer the victory of Congress, the same party we discarded just four years back. The country lost five years by putting their trust in Modi, it has come full circle and people’s lives have gone from the frying pan into the fire. Modi’s devastating failure has given Congress the perfect platform to claim that only it can govern the country. We are being made to choose between the lesser of the two evils at the particular point of time when elections are held. Bipartisan politics are like playing with a ping pong ball. People have become confused and this can be clearly seen from the fact that both in MP and Rajasthan, Congress has not got the simple majority.

Now BJP is conveniently trying to blame anti-incumbency for its electoral losses and shift the blame away from Modi when it is his rampant mis-governance that has antagonized people against the BJP. What is amazing is people are buying into the anti-incumbency rhetoric against the state leaders and are still vouching to vote for Modi during 2019 elections. The reason is simple. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been the CM of MP for 3 consecutive terms which means he became CM around the same time when Modi became the CM of Gujarat. Modi is clearly apprehensive of the outcome of the 2019 elections and does not want challengers to stack up against him within BJP in case the party does not get an absolute majority. The blame would squarely fall on his shoulders and leaders like Sushma Swaraj and Chouhan would become open contenders to replace him. This is why he stopped asking people to vote for him and there were reports that he had become less enthusiastic during election rallies. During the election campaign he was no longer the star at BJP’s rallies and Yogi Adityanath was used to subtly replace him. Making Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh the fall guys will help sideline them within BJP.

There are even more ramifications to the outcome of these elections. There have been complaints of rampant EVM manipulation especially during state elections after 2014 which supposedly helped BJP win elections in UP with a huge majority. The credibility of EVMs have been on a downward slide and there has been growing clamor to replace EVMs with ballot boxes and even conducting 2019 elections under the supervision of SC. Now that the BJP has been defeated in the elections, it will be hoping that the blame over EVMs would not longer hold credence. But Rahul Gandhi was smart enough to state during the press conference after election results were announced that EVM manipulation is a global problem and it needs to be looked at irrespective of these election results. The problem now is, since the credibility of EVMs and EC itself has supposedly been restored, both can no longer be held guilty for BJP’s win in 2019 elections. This opens up the complete possibility of EVM manipulation during the elections.

Political parties have been turning a blind eye to the sufferings of their voters time and again in their jostling for power. Through their votes, people are giving them the power of governance and not of arrogance. This will most probably the last opportunity Congress gets to improve themselves even if they are able to win 2019 elections and I do not believe people will vote BJP back to power if Congress fails again. What will happen then could be anybody’s guess. I am expecting nothing less than anarchy, people’s revolution, bloodbath and devastation. This is where the current political games are leading the country to.

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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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