After corporates and youth, it was the turn of woman power that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Monday sought to woo in his bid to reach out to audiences nationwide in a speech that also had digs at Rahul Gandhi and the woman Governor in his state.
Women's entrepreneurship, empowerment and equality for the fair sex were the themes during his hour-long interaction organised by the FICCI Ladies Organisation in which a number of entrepreneurs, including FICCI president Naina Lal Kidwai, were present.
Observing that 50% women alone could do a lot to bring economic development in the country, Modi cited examples of women in tribal areas and the dairy movement which made Amul an internationally known brand.
"But even today women are not part of the economic decision-making process. We have to change this. Bring them into the decision making process," Modi said in a speech that was repeatedly cheered by the women audience.
The chief minister, however, did not leave the opportunity to have a go at Rahul Gandhi, who could potentially be pitted against him in the prime ministerial race, and the state governor, a woman, over non-clearance of a women's reservation bill.
Talking of women's entrepreneurship, he referred to a Jasubehn, whose pizzas could beat even known international brands, in Gujarat.
"But before our friends from the media go there to find out if Jasubehn is like Kalavati, I would like to tell them she died five years back. Her pizzas, however, still have a big market," Modi said.
This was a barb aimed at Rahul Gandhi who had in a speech in Parliament referred to Kalavati, the widow of a poor farmer who had committed suicide in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra a few years ago.
Criticising Gujarat Governor Kamla Beniwal, the chief minister said the Assembly had passed a Bill for reserving 50% seats for women in local bodies in urban and rural areas but it has still not got her assent.
"It is my misfortune that despite being a woman she has not given her assent," he said.
Modi also hit out at Congress while trying to hardsell achievements in Gujarat. Replying to a question, he said, "My Congress friends had created so many potholes that till now I have been filling them. I have brought it to a level playing field now. Imagine how big those potholes were. Now the effort will be to build an impressive, grand Gujarat."
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi addresses a gathering of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Ladies Organization (FLO) during its 29th annual session in New Delhi. (AP Photo)
The Gujarat chief minister, who was speaking on "Unleashing the entrepreneur within", used several anecdotes and examples to emphasise his points on empowerment of women.
He said given the same opportunities the "women go two steps ahead" of men.
Modi gave examples from his state while talking about exemplary achievements of women entrepreneurs. He referred to the huge success of Lijjat papad and how it was started by a group of village women.
He said entrepreneurship is in-built in women and if an opportunity is given for this to flourish, it gives results. However, he rued, women are mostly confined to the background.
Things are changing now, he said, with more and more men seeking working wives.
Modi referred to female foeticide and said how the sex ratio is skewed due to this practice which continued in some places even now.
He emphasised on the dignity of women and giving them respect, which they enjoyed in the past.
Modi said he had given property rights to women in his state and also provided them stamp duty relief.
Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, Kavitha Varadaraj, president, FICCI Ladies Organisation (L) and Naina Lal Kidwai, president FICCI (extreme R) at the 29th session of FICCI Ladies Organisation in New Delhi. UNI PHOTO
The Gujarat chief minister described himself as an "ordinary man" having all the failings that such a person has.
"No human being is complete. In everybody there are some shortcomings. I have all the shortcomings of an ordinary man but the values (sanskar) that I received I have been able to leave some of them behind.... I have not reached the height where I can evaluate myself. It is for you all to do," he said.
Reaching out to the elite audience, Modi said he would welcome their feedback on him through social media including Twitter and Facebook.