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Opinion: Elections Now Are Nothing More Than A Game Of Numbers

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Assembly elections in five states, namely West Bengal, Kerala, Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Assam, once again have narrated how numbers become politically significant and how numbers can manipulate a particular social and political condition. It is fact that the principle of liberal democracy and its key aspect that defends electoral process is closely linked with the notion of numbers and it’s a game to affect the entire social and political process.

Numbers, in this sense, do not just define the social and political process, but also change the narrative of a particular social and political context. The ongoing elections in the five states are narrating this very character of numbers. In this, every political party, including the ruling BJP and the Congress, is running high volumes of their political campaigns to appeal voters widely.

On the other hand, state parties are also utilising different campaign strategies to get in touch with a large population just to increase the number of votes and number  of sheets in the state assembly. Many scholars claim this has been a key process of any electoral democracy, and also defines the value of numbers and its manipulating tendency in electoral democracy.

BJP Demonstrate In Kolkata
Indian supporters and party workers of the (BJP) wear masks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and flash victory signs as they celebrate on the vote results day for India’s general election in Kolkata on May 23, 2019. (Photo by Debajyoti Chakraborty/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Facts Do Not Exist

There were many incidents in the General Election of 2019 that cleverly defined how different political parties were utilising different strategies to attract voters in their favour. In this, politicians who were contesting the election were visiting every place and every home in their constituency to announce several unbelievable promises. During the entire period of the election campaign, it could be observed that the different strategies and techniques being utilised by politicians as well as political parties were psychologically more appealing and convincing to get the highest voting turnout.

Prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi during the general election in 2019 led his election campaign aggressively and utilised several communication platforms to constitute his image as a great Hindu leader. During the campaign, throughout the country, he dramatically conveyed the message to the common public and successfully constituted his image in the common Hindu mindset. During the entire campaign, his idea of a new India was polemical and communal that has created not just an anti-Muslim sentiment among the Hindus, but also manipulated myths to consolidate Hindu voters in his favour.

Similarly, in —the ongoing assembly elections in the five states, the same narratives are being utilised by both the ruling BJP as well as different opposition parties in their campaigns — by consolidating voters by manipulating different historical myths. In West Bengal, on one side, there’s Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and on the other, there’s the BJP, and both are holding several public meetings and playing to the political drama to just narrate their individual image and notion of politics.

WB Election

To create emotional appeal, Banerjee dramatised the Nandigram incident with intense political manipulation. PM Modi, on the other side, is using communal and anti-women narratives in several public meetings in West Bengal to bring the common public into a populist mode of thinking.

Voters Seen Just As Numbers

The implementation of the new liberal policy by the Indian government in 1991 has been a turning point that has not only redefined the voting behaviour but also the election process. As we have observed in the recent General election, most of the regional parties were focused on a particular community or caste, and treated them merely as numbers to make their alliance with other political parties. In this, the emergence of an alliance-based politics is the reflection of the same tendency and redefines not just the voters’ opinions and but also the way through which political parties treat voters like a property.

This kind of tendency has constituted a notion among common voters to redefine one-voter-for-one-value numerically. The logic of numbers in the election process always stands to define the value as well as its objective myth. This tendency of the number game in India’s election process has brought out significant changes not just in the notion of Indian democracy, but also in society and its different institutions.

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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 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.

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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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