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As Nitish Kumar Gets A Historic 4th Term, This Bihar Election Will Always Be Remembered. Here’s Why.

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Bihar state election results were declared on November 11. The counting was delayed in several polling stations and extended way into the night. A close competition between RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) alliance which included Congress and other left-leaning parties and NDA-JDU (National Democratic Alliance – Janata Dal-United) which included the ruling central party BJP was observed. RJD may have lost the battle but it made victory extremely difficult for BJP by becoming the single largest party with 75 seats. 

The NDA alliance thus won 125 seats in the 243 seat state assembly. BJP won 72 seats while JDU won 42 seats. 

More than 14 hours of counting, and a series of delays, allegations of cheating, EVM hacks and the likes led to the results which were finally declared in the early hours of 11 November. NDA hit the majority mark of 122 at 2:57 am on November 11. The Election Commission was on its toes the entire time and held four press briefings starting from the morning of the day the counting started. The results were published on the official website of Election Commission. 

Nitish Kumar will continue to be the chief minister of Bihar.

High Voter Turnout

The turnout was much higher than expected. This turnout even beat the 2015 state election with an increase of 0.39%. The three-phase election saw a turnout of 57.05%. The Election Commission had set up more booths this time amid the travel concerns in the pandemic which could have led to a higher turnout. The number of voters at polling booths was reduced from 1400 to 1000 to maintain social distancing rules. 

A total of 5.31 lakh polling personnel and 1.80 lakh security personnel were present at various polling booths in the state, which has 7.3 crore registered electors. The women turnout remained higher this time as well. However as the percentage of men voters saw a rise from the 2015 elections, the women turnout was slightly lower. 

The election was also a test of trust in the party’s control over the pandemic.  

Representational image.

What Do The People Of Bihar Think Of The Election Result?

The people of Bihar seem excited at the results.

Vineeta Singh, a native of Bihar says, “The people of Bihar have shown that they have the ability to understand what lies beyond the obvious. Women have played an important role in supporting their pro women’s agenda. Likewise, the youth and the marginalized groups have voted for their specific goals. There is no clean sweep. There is no wave. People of Bihar have a mind of their own and they cannot be brainwashed easily.”

Did Election Commission Do Justice To Conducting Elections Amid A Pandemic?

Bihar faced several calamities including floods and unemployment which saw thousands of Biharis walking miles to return to their home state. The state, however, stayed true to its resilience and set the precedence by becoming the first-ever Indian state to go into elections during a pandemic. Though the Covid-19 graph remains alarming in Bihar with more than 2,20,000 cases until now, it is hoped that the new government will restore normalcy in the region.

With low digital literacy in the state and political rallies that saw blatant abuse of all corona guidelines, elections did seem like a difficult task. However, EIC has proven it’s resolve for the execution of timely elections.

The election manifesto of BJP had come into news after the party’s promise to provide free vaccination for the entire population of Bihar if voted to power. It remains to be seen how many promises from that manifesto will see the light of the day. Bihar remains the only state in the North Indian Hindi heartland where BJP hasn’t been able to secure a win individually.

Tejashwi Yadav was the face of RJD in the absence of his father, Lalu Prasad Yadav who is presently serving a jail term for corruption. However the 31-year-old could not return the charisma that was symbolic of the old party leader. Out of the total 243 seats, BJP contested for 121 seats while JDU contested for 122 seats.

Election ‘Drama’ In Bihar?

Elections in India, the largest democracy in the world do not happen without their fair share of drama. After all, drama in this country isn’t restricted to cinema. We are a society brought up on the fodder of daily soap operas – the underrated fabric of unity in the diversity that is India. Sure enough, the first state elections amidst the pandemic came with its twists and turns, betrayal and unlikely alliances.

The words of the eternal playwright, Shakespeare come to mind: misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. This line from the play, The Tempest, finds relevance here as compromises and partnerships happened at a fastening rate in the fight for the chair. A plot that could compete with Game of Thrones without the final leg making you regret. Chirag Paswan, previously a close ally of Nitish Kumar, cut off all alliances and stormed into the battlefield as a one-man army. JDU expressed hurt at the comments of Paswan.

LJP was never close to a victory but it did cut out a considerable share of the JDU vote base.

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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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