The Tale Of Bewildered Political Alliances In Bihar

The 2019 Lok Sabha election result declaration unleashed deep discomfort in some manner, that prevailed both, in camps of the five-party Mahagathbandhan, and the three-party National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Tasting defeat or victory in the Lok Sabha polls may have a long-lasting effect in terms of social perception and results but never remains the same, as an alliance of political parties come into the picture.

Shattered dreams of the of a grand alliance headed by Laloo Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of defeating the trio of Modi-Nitish-Paswan brought such humiliation, that instead of introspection, constituents of the alliance got into bitter heated talks. The prolonged absence of Laloo’s political heir Tejashwi Yadav raised eyebrows of his party leadership. Jitan Ram Manjhi and the Congress blamed Tejashwi’s electoral plan for the poll debacle. RLSP chief, Upendra Kushwaha was the exception for not engaging in the blame-game.

In the ruling camp of NDA, all was not well, even after a sweeping victory, as Nitish Kumar’s JDU opted to remain out of the cabinet due to marginal representation of the JDU in Modi Government 2.0. This created subtle chaos in state alliance. Just like Kushwaha, Ram Vilas Paswan was also tight-lipped post a massive victory but that was just a start for abnormalities.

The next level challenge for both camps is the upcoming assembly elections in 2020. Post the dust biting defeat of the RJD, supporters and leadership of lantern are pitching hard for party leader Tejashwi Yadav as the leader of the Mahagathbandhan in 2020 assembly polls but alliance partners like Jitan Ram Manjhi led HAM (Secular) and Congress did not pay heed to the one-sided declaration.

Rather, Manjhi attempted to put himself in shoes of a leader of the Mahagathbandhan. A big dilemma sustains inside the RJD over an alliance with Nitish Kumar. One faction led by veterans is found batting for Nitish. Senior RJD leaders, like former MPs Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, and Shivanand Tiwary, have been advocating for a need to bring JDU back into the grand alliance over the last few months. But Tejashwi Yadav, while addressing the media on Saturday, ruled out any alliance of his party with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JDU ahead of the assembly polls due next year; setting at rest all speculation about a tie-up, some of them triggered by his own party leaders.

Presently, the JDU and BJP are in undeclared loggerhead over the state’s Chief Ministerial candidate, although bugles of ‘All is Well’ are being blown by leaders from either side; but cracks are visible. Bihar’s deputy chief minister and BJP leader, Sushil Modi is known to be a favourite of Nitish Kumar; this has not gone down well with BJP’s Bihar leadership in last few years, especially with the upper caste leaders lobby headed Dr. C.P.Thakur, Giriraj Singh, etc. The indifference was more visible a week ago after BJP MLC Sanjay Paswan’s statement on Nitish Kumar to quit chief ministership and enter national politics created turbulence in the ruling NDA alliance.

To its counter, Sushil Modi came up with a tweet saying – “Nitish Kumar is the captain of NDA in Bihar and will remain its captain in next assembly elections in 2020 also.” But fresh moves of Ram Vilas Paswan brought a further twist to the alliance tale, indicating a tough tug of war within the NDA partners. In an interview to The Hindu, Ram Vilas Paswan added an instant twist to JDU-BJP dissatisfactory proxy war by saying that, Nitish Kumar is our captain and he will continue unless if the BJP decides to bring in a different Captain.

In conversation with JDU spokesperson, Neeraj Kumar (also a minister in Bihar government), said that there is absolutely no rift within the ruling alliance of the NDA. JDU and BJP came together 2017 on issues of zero tolerance to corruption and Saat Nischay Yojna Scheme (Seven commitment) without any dispute on leadership. If at all confusion lays on recent statement’s on Nitish Kumar’s chief ministerial candidature, Sushil Modi’s standpoint must be solely taken into account as he is the official face of the government and also the leader of the legislature party. Keeping aside clarifications of the NDA alliance leaders, the underlying strategy of the BJP remains to test waters for chief minister’s face for the NDA and it was done through the statement by Sanjay Paswan (not known for creating controversies on alliance issues). This could not have been possible without a nod of the top leadership in Delhi and subsequently, Ram Vilas Paswan’s standpoint inclined to the BJP depicts an unwary tale of the ruling NDA camp.

Insiders of both the BJP and JDU are also planning to have separate manifestos for assembly polls as Nitish Kumar in the past declared the party’s no agreement on Modi government’s act of scrapping article 370 and triple talaq. This may lead to fighting the polls together but with different manifestos. Though leaders of both Mahagathbandhan and NDA are trying hard to end rumours on the rift within and on new allying equations. Sunday’s press conference at the state capital became a chance for the opposition to show off its unity, clearing the air over differences, simultaneously declaring entry of Nitish Kumar back in the fold if he snubs ties with the BJP is a contrarian to Tejashwi Yadav’s statement.

This reflects the bewildered alliances in Bihar. Uncertain decision making in existing alliances indicates a topsy-turvy trend in Bihar’s political landscape, bound to add more suspense and interest in coming times. But can Bihar’s electorate afford to elect a single-party government rejecting the coalition government? Or will a new alliance come to fray? These remain the last questions that still remain unanswered.

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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, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’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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