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Maharashtra Election: Does ‘Ideology’ Matter To Political Parties Anymore?

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उधव ठाकरे
Uddhav Thackeray

With Uddhav Thackeray being sworn-in as 18th chief minister of Maharashtra on November 28, 2019, what goes well is the colloquial saying – it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Nothing is unfair in politics when it comes to grabbing power. A skillful display of ideological differences at public fora is more of a pseudo-intellectual flimflam, a political ideology which people are made to align with and get affiliated with is sheer eye-wash and a web of deceit on part of political parties. Hence, I strongly feel that the so-called ‘ideology’ is meaningless and gobbledygook.

The hands of the electorates seemingly get tied once they queue up before the election booths, cast their votes, and results are declared thereafter. Systematically, their role concludes with their mandate that is entrusted with the representatives they choose.

For that reason, they cannot withdraw their votes already cast in the favour of particular party or individual in case their mandate is not honoured the way election manifesto was explained before the voting process. A picture in this regard is quite clear with the recently-held elections in the state of Maharashtra and month-long melodrama thereafter. The dramatic formation of the government has intrigued every politically-sensitive citizen.

It was apparent that the electorates of the state gave a clearer majority to the BJP- Shiv Sena combine which was a pre-poll alliance. Voters were clear with their hearts and minds with respect to what they wanted was a  BJP-Sena government. To this effect, the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) was given almost double seats (105) in comparison to Sena (56) mathematically in the 288-seat assembly.

Considering the sentiments of the body of voters, it has a comprehensible meaning that BJP was to play a bigger role and Shiv Sena a junior. But then, the game Shiv Sena has played so shrewdly so far is before the eyes of the country to see. The move is, of course, not exactly in tune with what people wanted with their exercise of franchise rights. However, each political party has a different narrative to suit them.  They have begun to stoop so low as nobody would expect.

(L-R) Sonia Gandhi, Uddhav Thackeray, Sharad Pawar.

The fallout of this political scenario has a valid question: where do the electorates stand wrong? Why should they henceforth acknowledge the pre-poll coalition only to see it broken in the tussle of power-sharing?  Is their mandate so flimsy that it cannot be given any shape by the politicians in connivance with their opponents? Does it go with the spirits of electoral politics that the country ideally and philosophically presents through the textbooks and public discourses?  Is the time up for the nation to take a call on a two-party system?

Today, the soul of Balasaheb Thackeray, who founded the Shiv Sena, might probably be crying at the change of heart the party has had; a party that claimed to have a certain ideology on which it has ridden piggyback since its inception on June 19, 1966. The other way around, it stands to reason that Shiv Sena turned out to be a wolf in sheep’s-clothing and is on the same page as the Congress.

To me, it seems as if they have no ideological difference at all, they have always claimed just to win over the people, and that they have succeeded in throwing dust into the eyes of the public. It looks like what only matters for a party is to grab power, by hook-or-by-crook, and there is no hard-and-fast political ideology at all. Everything seems to be seasonal, just as frogs croak with the season.

Uddhav Thackrey and Devendra Fadnavis

Apparently, with the Shiv Sena breaking its alliance with BJP post-election, no party, including BJP, was able to stake a claim to form the government. Hence, the President’s rule was imposed. In between, what prompted BJP to hurry-scurry and form the government only to survive three days? Such a move dents the party image and also questions its political ideology, particularly when it gets set to shake the hands with the supposedly-tainted Ajit Pawer, a leader of Nationalist Congress Party headed by Sharad Pawar.

Flocking the newly-elected legislators from one hotel to another gave an impression of a shepherd commanding their herd of goats and sheep for shearing. Their parade was mocking the idealistic concept of Bapu’s politics. The country was all giggles at the sight of unprecedented bundling of the legislators into buses and their parade before the media. What message does it give to the young generation that these law-makers are merely puppets in the hands of their political masters? The political ‘hostages’ of elected representatives will, and should, pose many loaded questions that parties have to answer in days to come.

On the face of it, I really feel that ‘bizarre’ describes the role of the grand old Congress party who, in 2006, just to keep the BJP out, installed an independent MLA Madhu Koda as the CM of Jharkhand. A question remains to be answered: will political parties have any sort of ideology to stick to? Can’t we rise above party politics at times and think of strengthening the largest democracy of the world?

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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