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The End Of INC: False Entitlement, Misplaced Priorities And A Falling Political Dynasty

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Politics and leadership are about action rather than holding a position.

The new wave of politics which has emerged in the last six years desires three things: a perpetual necessity of the populist rhetoric, winning the war of perception and a strong trait of revisionism.

Laden with these traits, a leader and the respective party has a reasonable chance to increase their winnability quotient on the plank of both, the material or cultural politics. For instance, BJP has maintained its hegemony at the national level primarily on the plank of cultural politics wherein the material factors had been the sub-text. On the other hand, many regional parties or the regional satraps of Congress have scored an electoral victory against BJP’s by riding high on the wave of material politics. Thus, contemporary India presents a political scenario wherein the national political stage is witnessing the preponderance of BJP and cultural politics, while the regional scenario presents a heterogeneous and split scenario.

The Many Levels Of Congress’ Failure And A False Sense Of Entitlement

Scindia joined BJP recently; h was the only leader who has a pan-state appeal and under whose name the party fought and won the 2018 state election.

However, even at the regional level, one distinct trend that everyone witnesses are the political paralysis afflicting the Congress party/governments. This paralytic state emanates from their being captive to an outmoded conservative and lazy outlook which arises from a false sense of entitlement. Therein one assumes that the political field would remain still until they assess the situation and make their first move. A cursory glance at some recent events at the state level would suffice. Last month in Manipur, BJP’s led NEDA government faced a decisive blow on account of withdrawal of support by the allies. The regional Congress veteran and ex-C.M OkramIbobi Singh showed his political acumen to encash upon the crisis and brought the dissidents into its fold thereby bringing the incumbent government in minority for the time being. However, ultimately he lost the plot as the national leadership of BJP starting from Amit Shah to Ram Madhav and Himanta Biswa Sarma quickly resolved an aggravate crisis. Here, the national Congress leadership failed to act decisively and ultimately the regional leader felt abandoned. This is equally true about many other small north-eastern states like Meghalaya wherein BJP denied Congress the corridors of power despite later emerging as the single largest party. Hence, the central leadership of the grand old party is not only a failure at the national level but rather acts as a dead-weight against their own regional leaders. One hasn’t forgotten the 2017 episode in Goa wherein Congress lost the plot in spite of getting 17 seats out of 40 while BJP with just 13 seats formed the government. This was primarily on account of the sluggish and royal approach of the then state-in-charge Digvijay Singh who wasted precious time, while the BJP’s central leadership clinched the deal. This approach poses an existential threat to the party at a time when every regional political fortune is deeply tied to the interest and ability of the national leadership. Behind these political inactions lies the continuance of the old-guards’ patronizing attitude without having a corresponding mass base. Nevertheless, they acquire their prominence in the party by their unquestioned loyalty to the Gandhis who themselves are captive of the plot that they weave. This then necessarily pits the non-pliable and relatively young Congress leaders who are laden with spirit and command a credible mass base. The more the electoral prospect of the party dwindles, the worse has been the record of the inner-circle and Gandhis, to consistently alienate and humiliate the charismatic and capable younger leaders. The list is long. On account of the misplaced arrogance of the Gandhis and the inner circle, the party lost Andhra Pradesh beyond redemption when the self-entitled Gandhis rejected the entitlement of Jagan Reddy in the name of inner-party democracy. Today, Jagan Reddy rules Andhra Pradesh. In the same way, they made Himant Biswa Sarma join BJP, leading to Congress losing the plot in the entire North-East. Recently, it happened with Scindia in Madhya Pradesh, the only leader who has a pan-state appeal and under whose name the party fought and won the 2018 state election. Now, it is Sachin Pilot who is the latest manifestation. Given the arithmetic, the Congress government led by Gehlot would survive the crisis, but the malaise it points out is an indication of something deeper.

Congress Has Had Its Priorities For Long Now

Today, the central leadership behaves like an agent of twitterati’s democracy. Therein they share a moral, not the political outrage as if both are one and the same. Forget about ameliorating the moribund state of the party in the Hindi-heartland of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The party believes that Priyanka Gandhi could wrest the state from BJP merely on account of her resemblance to Indira Gandhi and infesting ranks and files of the party with left-wing cadres who are expert in making all the noises but proven illiterate in the art of reading the ground scenarios. The majority of them belong to the category who aren’t interested in ousting the Modi-regime. Rather, they cherish beholding the platform that gives them endless opportunities to vent their ideological anger against the ascendency of the right. In opposing Modi, they find spiritual satiation. Defeating BJP electorally isn’t as gratifying.

Politics is about the ability to manage the contradictions. In passively purging the party of the capable and non-pliable regional leadership, the party has forgotten its own past of being an umbrella party and representing a rainbow profile of the leadership. Why? Because the central leadership and the inner-circle are more interested in controlling the dwindling resources of the party and power than doing politics.

At a time when the majority of the electorate don’t want Gandhis to be their leader, insisting on the same and offering the argument that without them the party would collapse signify the clownish wisdom of the decadent feudal who believed that the march of democracy had threatened the social stability and without their enlightened leadership the society would collapse. It is high time, the party adapts to the new wave of politics that demands spirited and permanent investment on the ground and offers a profile of leaders with the capability and connect to the ground. However, for that, Gandhis and the inner circle needs to take a backseat as they signify the death of politics.

Dr. Sajjan Kumar is a Political Analyst. He is associated with People’s Pulse, a Hyderabad based research organization.

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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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