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Opinion: Is The Much Touted ‘Modi Wave’ A Myth Or Reality?

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In 2019, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed the government for the second term, winning even more seats than they did in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Since then, a new buzzword has made its way into the political discourse of India, “Modi wave”— indicating a ‘tsunami’ of support for the Prime Minister and his party across the nation that washes away all other opposition.

The supporters of the BJP want to create an invincible image around Modi and his government.

This idea has now become even more common for primarily two reasons. Firstly, the BJP’s electoral victories including the 2019 General elections where it increased its seat share in the Parliament from 282 in 2014 to 303. Secondly, it has been intentionally injected into the minds of the people through consistent media coverage of the ruling party’s rallies and presence (which includes the IT Cell’s mammoth presence in the social media platforms).

Due to the large-scale institutional support that the ruling party has today from the largest corporations and multinationals funding their campaigns to sitting judges of the Supreme Court hailing the Prime Minister as a ‘visionary’, everyone seems to have become a bhakt of the bearded fakir called Narendra Modi.

But is this so-called ‘Modi wave’ a reality? Is it true that the majority want this government, or even subscribe to its Hindu nationalist ideology? We must find out the truth in this regard because false, exaggerated ideas about the ruling class is a tool used by it to make itself appear invincible and inevitable, thus making the masses believe in it as the norm and injecting pessimism in those who are oppressed and in those who fight for the liberation of the people.

BJP’s Electoral Performance In Numbers

We have 29 states at present, out of which the BJP rules only 12.  Recent election results in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala further show that the BJP does not hold much power against regional parties at the state level and has to get into alliances to even remain in power like they are in six states. In Assam, the difference of vote share between BJP and the largest opposition party, the Indian National Congress, is only 3.5%.

Out of the states that BJP governs, in Madhya Pradesh, they could not win electorally and then had to topple the popularly elected government by buying off sitting MLAs of the ruling party, thus explicitly disrespecting the people’s verdict. They attempted the same in Rajasthan. Further, in Karnataka, BJP did not even get the majority of vote shares! They got 36% of the votes which was second to the Indian National Congress’s 38%. It thus becomes clearer how failures of the electoral mechanism have paved the way for the BJP to hold power.

There is another widely held belief that even if BJP does not perform well in State elections, nationally Narendra Modi and the BJP are hailed as the only reliable ones to be in power by the ‘people’ or the ‘majority’. In India, 900 million people, or approximately 60% of the population are eligible to vote. Out of that, the voter turnout was 67.1% in 2019, so only 67.1% of those 900 million people, that is approximately  600 million people take part in electing the government into power.  Now, the BJP in 2019 got around 220 million or 37% of the votes.

This means that not only did over 60% of the people who came to vote did not want the party in power, but a more revealing fact is, the ruling party is in power with merely the votes of 220 million people, which is in a country of over 1.5 billion only about 15% of the population. Considering the state of affairs in this country, even out of that 15% we must account for people whose votes are bought, and the ones who vote under coercion and interests other than subscribing to BJP’s ideology.

Another fact that should be taken note of here is that the BJP is the world’s largest party with around 180 million members and that if we merely add the Sangh Parivar, the BJP’s backbone, which has around 6 million members, we can see that neither the masses nor the ‘majority’ wants them in power.

 Why Is The BJP So Powerful Then??

Failure of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) voting system is one of the major structural issues. The electoral system has failed to reflect in Parliament the popular support awarded to competing parties other than the victorious party. It creates false majorities by over-representing the party that did not receive a majority of the votes while under-representing the others. Why is it that a party that was elected by only about 15% of the population gets to have around 60% seats in the parliament, ‘represent’, and make decisions about the entire population? This is in itself undemocratic.

The second reason is the large-scale institutional support that the BJP enjoys. It is public knowledge that all public institutions like the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Election Commission (ECI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and even the Supreme Court have acted in certain ways that only further the agenda of the ruling class. Multinational corporations (MNCs) and the biggest company owners have funded and even openly come out in support of the BJP. The rich and the most powerful are disproportionately on their side.

BJP’s performance in West Bengal and other elections prove they are not as strong as those espousing the Modi wave suggest.

The third reason is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its ground-level organizations which have grown all over the country over the last few years, which the opposition leaders and leaders have failed, or refused to put an end to. The growth of reactionary organizations like Bajrang Dal and self-proclaimed ‘Gau Rakshaks’ are used to strike terror in the hearts of minorities and the marginalized.

RSS shakhas and schools have sprung up even in the most remote areas of the country, and this, unfortunately, has happened even under the watch of apparently anti-BJP state governments like Kerala and West Bengal. The BJP is what it is today, because of the RSS. It is nothing without the RSS and its other ground organizations and NGOs.

Lastly, why BJP still performs better at the national level is because of the lack of a strong opposition leader or even a strong opposition candidate. Hence, the votes against BJP get divided up and they come out as the largest party. A significant number of BJP voters simply vote for them because they see strength and stability in the BJP. This false perception must end.

Let there be no doubt: it is no ‘majority that is supporting the ruling party. Neither is it true that they are invincible, and it is not a mere overly optimistic statement that they are not at all inevitable and will eventually succumb to defeat— electorally and otherwise.

There is no ‘Modi wave’, there is only a Modi myth.

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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.

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.

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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.”

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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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