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Rajasthan’s Political Crisis: Is The Grand Old Party Sidelining Its Young Leaders?

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Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot

The Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot fiasco began after Special Operation Group (SOG) issued summons to the CM and his deputy for recording their statements after a complaint by the Congress about the BJPs attempts to buy legislators and topple the one-and-a-half-year-old Gehlot government in Rajasthan. This proved to be the immediate trigger annoying the already infuriated Pilot.

Beginning this year when around hundred infants died in Kota’s J. K. Lon Hospital, there was a war of words ensued by the lack of basic medical facilities and equipments as Pilot being a PWD Minister made use of this occasion to take on Ashok Gehlot directly on a host of issues, be it on policy and governance. Raghu Sharma, the Health Minister, attempted to calm down the tempers but in vain.

Pilot, from day one, has always made purpose of the available chance and opportunity in attacking the credentials of his government for one or the other reason. I believe this has certainly to do with his lack of audience with the central command of the party, making him enter into friction with the seasoned and experienced Ashok Gehlot after the Rajasthan assembly mandate of 2018. Pilot had strong desire of getting the top post as a reward for his labour, loyalty and obedience to the high command in terms of offering the best of his services in his capacity as the party had ended up decimated in the 2013 Rajasthan assembly elections earlier.

Left: Sachin Pilot, Right: Ashok Gehlot

Pilot was the groundsman who, with his patience and temperament, built the party, gradually swinging into harbouring the expectations of Chief Minister-ship. It was thought natural for Pilot, given his rank and responsibility in the Congressm. He sounded optimistic and confident after the Congress delivered marvelously in 2018; plus with a sense of entitlement creeping in, he thought himself as the contender for the top post.

Ashok Gehlot, who comes across as a disciplined foot soldier of the party and an old Gandhi family loyalist commanding obedience, was on priority for the elected legislators backed by experience and expertise as a leader, politician and administrator. Sachin Pilot came nowhere near him, plus with his wafer-thin majority in the assembly, there was a need for someone carrying along the interests of each and and every one along quite willingly. The backing by the independent legislators did make the task easier for Gehlot but there was a catch: for the high command favoured taking Pilot on board with his aspirations and ambitions for the top political profile. However, after days of deliberate inaction, the Congress worked a middle ground by favouring Pilot for Deputy CM and Party President, seen as efforts on part of high command securing his interests and objectives in the party.

Sachin Pilot has been a young, energetic, enthusiastic, charismatic and dynamic leader of the Congress committed to the ideology and principle of the party. He has always stood his ground be it for any compelling situation and circumstance. I don’t understand his bargaining when the party is trying to work a fine power balance between him and Gehlot. Why is he dislodging the chain of command and hierarchy in the structure, and for whose interests? Will he benefit at all from breaking a few of Gehlot’s MLAs who support him, or will he walk the talk with the BJP? These are some pressing questions warranting a clarification from Mr Pilot as this is not the manner of conducting your differences, opinions and views in the party; and if you perform this way, then the party has got all the right and authority to initiate disciplinary proceedings against your defiance .

I do believe that even after sacking Pilot from the post of Deputy CM and Party President, the Congress can still enter into engagements with Pilot if not for the latter’s acute wildness. At least, allow the senior-most functionaries to hear your side before arriving at any readymade conclusions, doing a great deal of injustice to a talent like Pilot who has over the period of time made significant contributions  for the Congress. I think that the old guards vs young turks debate is back once again after Sonia Gandhi’s return as the Congress President as her aides seem to be proudly drifting towards the old guards.

What Congress needs is to realize that for its political reinvigoration, it is the young who will have to be trained and tutored into taking the key posts and profile in the party. Only then can it present any alternative against Modi-led BJP. When the youth are trying to create a difference in the party, then they are being sidelined and relegated to the margins by the old loyalists of the party and thus playing to the advantage of other political party viz a viz national political parties. Thus, for ensuring the systematic and structural overhauling of the Congress party, the time is ripe for a serious investigation and interrogation if the party has to revive itself. It has to take into account the aspirations and ambitions of the young. The pool of the young widely needs to be utilized if the party has to escape from repeating another Scindia and Pilot plot, exposing its fallacy as now there should be an end to this Desert Drama once and for all.

I rest my case here.

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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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