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Opinion: Sharad Pawar, The Perfidious Man From Maharashtra

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Politics and loyalty go hand-in-hand in Indian political history. But, often we find some dubious exceptions to this legacy of loyal political leaders. One such rare exception is Sharad Pawar, a strongman from Maharashtra.

Sharad Pawar has been one of the longest-running active politicians of today’s times. Besides being a three-time Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Union Minister for Agriculture and Defence. He is known to be the man who will always do something opposite, to what he speaks about publicly.

Born in the Baramati district of Maharashtra in 1940, Sharad Pawar was an average student academically but had a strong attraction towards politics from the word go. He started college politics at the ripe age of 18 when he joined the Youth Congress. Pawar always had the cult and greed for power from his primary days in the Congress when he came close to Congress strongman Yashwantrao Chavan, the most influential politician of those times.

Sharad Pawar.

At a young age of 27, he was preferred to be the candidate for Congress to contest the Maharashtra Assembly Elections from Baramati constituency which he later turned into a fortress for his own family. While he worked heavily in the agricultural sector during his early days as the MLA from Baramati, he was also heavily involved in the politics of the local cooperative sugar mills and other member-run cooperatives societies.

When the Congress party decided to nurture its future generation in Maharashtra, Pawar was inducted in the then CM Vasantrao Naik’s cabinet as the Home Minister backed by the strong support of Yashwantrao Chavan. He later continued on the same portfolio in Shankarrao Chavan’s govt from 1975-77. Following the Congress party’s rout in 1977 Loksabha Elections began the journey of defections for Pawar when he joined Congress (U).

Sooner in 1978, he defected from his Congress alliance government, cheating on CM Vasantdada Patil and formed an alliance with the Janata Party, with the sole ambition to become the Chief Minister himself. He went on to create a record of being the youngest CM of Maharashtra that he still holds. In 1984, he contested the Baramati Loksabha seat for the first time and became an MP.

A few months later, he contested the Assembly elections as well and returned to state politics. He became a leader of the opposition of the Progressive Democratic Front that included BJP, PWP, and the Janata Party. In 1987, he jumped sides to return to Congress (I) with the mission to rescue Congress culture in Maharashtra. This period also noticed the emergence of Shivsena. Pawar once again became the CM of Maharashtra in 1987 and then in 1990.

By this time, Pawar had already started dreaming to become the Prime Minister of India following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. His aspirations were first dashed by P.V. Narsimha Rao and later by Sonia Gandhi. Pawar also served as the Leader of Opposition in the 12th Loksabha. Noticing the strong opposition to his aspirations of becoming the PM being crushed with the emergence of Sonia Gandhi as Congress Queen.

He went on to oppose Sonia for her Italian origin thereby floating the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999. But this move somehow restricted Pawar now, only for Maharashtra as a leader where BJP-Shivsena alliance also had become highly dominating. While in 2004, Pawar joined the UPA government again as an alliance partner but his dominance in national politics was very much cut down only to Maharashtra. Meanwhile,

Pawar also entered the cricket world from Mumbai Cricket Association to become the Chairman of the BCCI and later the ICC. During his entire political career, Pawar and controversies have always gone hand-in-hand. Pawar’s links with hardened criminals like Dawood Ibrahim, Pappu Kalani and Hitendra Thakur, his alleged connections with Shahid Balwa of the 2G spectrum scam,

Pawar’s controversial connection in the stamp paper scam, economic irregularities in the Lavasa project, his dubious stand during the 1993 Mumbai Bomb Blasts, etc are some of the incidents that raise a big question mark of Pawar’s credibility as the head of allegedly anti-nationalist NCP. His party never had any ideology similar to what Pawar too is.

He is known to be a stirrer of an anti-brahmin in Maharashtra and has the legacy of doing appeasement of the minorities and the Dalits just to create his political relevance at regular intervals. Various media reports on these issues raise these concerns on Pawar. His treacherous and conniving political strategies have always hit the headlines during his entire career. This trend continues even until today as he runs the government of Maharashtra overshadowing CM Uddhav Thackeray.

Narendra Modi’s emergence as the PM in 2014 is inadvertently the last nail in the coffin for his dreams to become India’s Prime Minister.

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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.

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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.

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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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