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As Political Upheaval Continues In Rajasthan, What’s In Store For BJP/Congress?

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The monsoon may have stalled in Rajasthan, but the political hailstorm continues. The political battle between Gehlot and Pilot has once again turned to Delhi, while the tussle between Vasundhara and the state leadership continues.

The recent by-elections not only exposed many pictures but also gave rise to many speculations. The assembly by-poll elections held in Sujangarh, Sahara and Rajsamand, made it clear that the road to 2023 was not going to be easy for both parties.

While on the one hand, Vasundhara Raje was missing from the party posters and the election grounds during the by-elections. On the other hand, Sachin Pilot was seen making a mockery.

Does Vasundhara’s Influence Persist?

Vasundhara Raje
Vasundhara Raje.

Ahead of the 2018 assembly elections, there was speculation that the party would face a bad defeat because of Vasundhara. During this time, a slogan was also prevalent, “Modi tujhse bair nahi, Rani teri khair nahi”. But BJP won more than 70 seats. Later it became clear that Vasundhara still had the power to win in Rajasthan.

A glimpse of this was also seen on Vasundhara’s birthday on 8 March, when 38 out of 70 MLAs and 13 out of 25 MPs attended Raje’s court. Yet, despite having so much influence and support, the central leadership is constantly trying to sideline Vasundhara.

It is well known that Vasundhara had publicly slammed Amit Shah when he was trying to make Gajendra Singh Shekhawat (Union cabinet minister of water resources) the head of the Rajasthan State BJP. So, Amit Shah does not want to put the reins in the hands of a person who is not in his control.

Shekhawat Is A Challenge In Front Of Vasundhara, Not Poonia

Vasundhara knows very well that Satish Poonia is a first time winning MLA, who neither has immense public support nor MLAs support. On the other hand, Raje has the support of many MLAs and MPs and the public.

Recently, a 22-year-old letter of Poonia was made public reportedly on behalf of the Vasundhara faction (although there is no proof) in which Poonia had called leaders like Rajendra Rathod and Harishankar Bhabhada as Bhasmasur. Countering this, an audio of Raje was leaked by the Satish Poonia faction in which she told the District President of Bharatpur’s Vasundhara Raje Manch, Tarachand, to continue the Manch.

This can be taken as an example and it can be said that the fight between Raje and Poonia is in full swing. But Gajendra Singh Shekhawat can emerge as a challenge because of Modi and Shah’s grace.

The war between Shekhawat and Vasundhara also came to the fore when the audio of the conversation of MLA Bhanwarlal Sharma and Shekhawat was leaked during the political crisis of Rajasthan. Political Pundits say that due to Raje’s proximity with Gehlot, the Vasundhara faction was involved in leaking the audio, but there is no evidence for the same.

How Long Will The Tussle Between Gehlot And Pilot Last?

gehlot pilot
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot.

Pilot has reached Delhi for the third time in the last 20 days and is trying to meet Rahul Gandhi before Gehlot. While on the other hand, the high command is engaged in damage control of Punjab.

Pilot’s last visit to Delhi is being told differently because Congress leaders, who lost the elections in front of independents and BSP candidates in the 2018 assembly elections, travelled to Delhi with Pilot and are still sitting there.

It is worth mentioning that these leaders had earlier written a letter to the interim president of Congress, Sonia Gandhi, expressing concern about the growing influence of BSP and independent MLAs.

These 15 leaders, who wrote letters to Sonia Gandhi, wanted to meet Ajay Maken, in charge of the Rajasthan Congress. But Maken asked five leaders to come as a delegation. Unfortunately, despite the preparation of the delegation, Maken has not been able to meet them so far due to busyness.

Manish Yadav, the Congress candidate from the Shahpur assembly seat, said, “We will keep camping till we tell our problems to the high command.” The Gehlot faction has not yet been able to break this bet of Pilot and is closely monitoring the developments.

Although politically, a big change has come that Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had decided not to meet anyone and stay at home for 2 months to avoid the post-COVID effect and postpone the cabinet’s expansion, reached Raj Bhavan on the pretext of Governor Kalraj Mishra’s birthday.

Political pundits are considering it as the pressure of the Gandhi family. According to experts, the Gandhi family is pressurising Gehlot to expand the cabinet. Due to this, Gehlot had to come out of the locked room.

Is Cabinet Expansion The Only Option?

At present, seeing the atmosphere of internal discord going on in the Rajasthan Congress, it seems that the cabinet expansion can end the political whirlwind. But it is difficult to say whether the cabinet expansion will satisfy both factions. Gehlot has already tried to send the message that there is no dearth of ministerial candidates by bringing forward independent and BSP MLAs.

On the other hand, Pilot wants five to six ministerial ranks, which does not seem to be possible at the moment. Even if possible, the satisfaction of the Gehlot group cannot be guaranteed.

The high command is well aware that the power in Rajasthan is based on the number game and the number game is in favour of Gehlot. So Gehlot is not only being given more attention but in recent months, he has been given a free hand. But seeing the current situation, it can be said that soon there will be an expansion of the cabinet in Rajasthan and Pilot can be given a role at the centre.

Pilot Has Many Options But No Guarantee Of Success

Sachin Pilot
Sachin Pilot. Source: flickr

There is no doubt that Pilot has been marginalised in the state congress. So Pilot either hopes to become a horse of the long race. He may choose calmness or become part of a new political fight.

Looking at the attitude of the MLAs, the first option can be rejected outright because the patience of the MLAs is breaking day by day. But, on the other hand, under the second option, decisions like setting up a third front or joining the BJP can be taken, which do not appear to be successful at the moment.

Will Beniwal’s Luck Shine?

The history of regional parties in Rajasthan has not been very good, but Hanuman Beniwal’s RLP is an exception. Hanuman Beniwal soon strengthened the organisation and created a party worthy of contesting the elections. Experts believe that Beniwal will benefit from the infighting between BJP and Congress, but it does not seem to be happening.

In the by-elections, Beniwal tried too much, but his party could not even get second place in any seat. Beniwal’s support base may be in every assembly constituency, but it is very limited, so the chances of getting benefits are less. Moreover, due to the farmers’ movement and the agriculture bills, Beniwal has left the BJP, which was not a good decision for his political career.

Despite the BJP’s support in the last Lok Sabha elections, Beniwal defeated Jyoti Mirdha by a very small margin. In such a situation, the coming assembly elections are a challenge of existence for him.

Who Will Rule?

The history of Rajasthan has been that after every 5 years, the governing party changes here. So it will be interesting to see whether a new script is written this time or the history is repeated. At present, both parties are battling with internal discord. Now the one who wins in this will deal with the opposition party.

If the BJP ignore Vasundhara, then the party will have to face a loss because she is a leader with a mass base. Even though the Rajput fraternity had split from Raje after the Anandpal encounter in the last elections, but now Raje is trying to regain her grip.

On the other hand, the fight between Gehlot and Pilot in Congress seems to be increasing day by day. Pilot has public support and Gehlot has the support of MLAs to run the government. Therefore, it can be said that the coming assembly election will be different in many ways and will be a fight for survival for some leaders and supremacy for others.

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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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