Nitish banking on well-nurtured women constituency in tough electoral test
Nitish Kumar is credited with introducing prohibition in the state, a very bold decision, keeping the women electorate in mind.Updated: Oct 24, 2020, 15:09 IST
Facing anti-incumbency and a political churning in the state, Bihar chief minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar is banking on one constituency he has nurtured all through his 15-year uninterrupted stint, as he seeks his seventh term as Bihar chief minister.
In his hectic electioneering, covering constituency after constituency, defying his age, he does not forget to remind people of the work done by his government for the women and the situation of the state 15 years ago when he took over the reins from Lalu Prasad’ RJD.
Increased women turnout in the state during the 2019 Lok Sabha election-- 60% compared to 55% for male voters—has raised hopes for continued greater participation of women voters in the future. It was also seen as a key factor behind NDA’s clean sweep.
As per election commission’s figures, constituencies like Katihar, Supaul and Kishanganj recorded over 70% women voter turnout, while in Araria, Purnea, Begusarai, Samastipur Vaishali and Ujiarpur, it was over 65%, in contrast, male turnout exceeded 60% in just five of the 40 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state.
“In a caste-ridden society of Bihar, where politicians show their clout in the name of caste combinations and caste backing, remaining caste neutral in politics can be tough. But Nitish Kumar has nurtured the caste-neutral constituency of women for the last 15 years with a slew of programmes and schemes, universally implemented, targeting them and that is one big factor that can help him out of the present situation,” says political analyst prof NK Choudhary.
Girls, who were in class 1 when Kumar took over as Bihar CM in November, 2005, have now theoretically reached the graduation stage and are eligible to vote. Nitish would hope that they form a constituency he could trust; though in a male-dominated society it might not be as easy as it appears.
He is now promising more to the fair sex like increasing the Rs 10,000 incentive after passing matriculation to Rs 25,000 and hiking Rs 25,000 motivation fund on completion of graduation to Rs 50,000 if he is voted back to power.
“Be it the education scheme under which a girl gets Rs 54,100 from cradle to graduation, creation of over 10 lakh self-help groups (SHGs) involving 1.25 crore women, 50% reservation for women in panchayati raj and educational institutions or 35% quota in the government jobs, women have been in the forefront of Nitish government’s policies from the very outset,” said Bihar minister Sanjay Jha.
Jha said when Nitish Kumar took the bold decision of introducing prohibition in the state in 2016, he attributed it to the call of women. “Later, he backed it up with two more state-wide campaigns against child marriage and dowry, both aimed at and inspired by women.
Former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Studies, DM Diwakar, said that it would be tough to expect women to vote en masse for Kumar in a patriarchal society like Bihar, but the first generation voters and their parents, who have directly benefited from his government programmes and witnessed change in their lives, would certainly back him.
Social analyst Saibal Gupta, member secretary of Asian Research Development Institute (ADRI), said Nitish Kumar’s reference to his work for women was natural. “He believes his work will speak for him. Today’s voters are more aware. If they see change, they know how it has come. If they don’t see it, they cannot accept it,” he added.