West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a rally in Nandigram, on Tuesday, March 30. (File photo)
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addresses a rally in Nandigram, on Tuesday, March 30. (File photo)

Didi banks on Trinamool women brigade to stop BJP onslaught

Be it fighting the alleged outsider force of BJP or becoming polling agents and manning booths on election days, Banerjee has urged the party’s women workers and supporters to come forward.
PUBLISHED ON APR 07, 2021 03:36 PM IST

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has placed her faith in the party’s women brigade to stop the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) juggernaut in West Bengal.

Be it fighting the alleged outsider force of BJP or becoming polling agents and manning booths on election days, Banerjee has urged the party’s women workers and supporters to come forward.

“Don’t appoint any person as a polling agent who is scared. I want agents who won’t flee even in the face of threats. If you can’t find a suitable agent, make women the polling agents,” Banerjee has told her party workers at a public rally on Tuesday, adding that four to five agents fled during the third phase polls on April 6.

The party chief’s directive came after some agents refused to go to the booths in the face of alleged threats while some others abandoned their posts on the polling day in the three phases of elections.

BJP rubbished the allegations, saying that voting was free and fair in Nandigram and there was a huge voter turnout. Nandigram recorded 88.01% voter turnout.

“After the first two phases, she has come to know that defeat is imminent. That is why she is making such statements. This is her last minute efforts. But people of Bengal have made up their mind. Such tactics won’t work anymore,” said Samik Bhattacharya, BJP spokesperson.

Also Read | BJP internal assessment: Nandigram a contest

On April 1, when Nandigram went to polls, an elderly woman cried on camera that she didn’t let her son, a TMC polling agent at a Boyal booth, to go to the polling station after the family was threatened.

Referring to all these incidents, Banerjee said at an election rally in Hooghly’s Khanakul on Sunday, “I am not ready to listen to excuses like BJP’s threats or BJP’s attacks. I am asking you to depute women as polling agents in a booth. Assign Kanyashree girls, who are getting scholarships and are at least 18, as polling agents.”

This is, however, not the first time that the TMC chief has urged women party workers to come forward. Banerjee had earlier too assigned them bigger roles, saying that they should hit the roads with kitchen utensils and broomsticks to counter the BJP.

“The BJP is bringing in goons from outside the state. I will urge the women to come out with ‘hata and khunti’ (kitchen utensil) and confront the goons. Wipe them away with your broomsticks,” she said, adding that women would be in the front while men would form the second line of defence.

With an eye on women voters and to sharpen its ‘outsider’ charge against the BJP, the TMC launched its main campaign slogan of Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chay (Bengal wants its own daughter) ahead of the polls.

West Bengal has around 37.3 million male voters, while there are around 35.9 million female voters in the state. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the participation rate of women voters in Bengal was as high as 81.7%.

The state government has quite a few welfare schemes for women, including the Kanyashree scheme which aims at promoting education and prevent child marriages by using cash incentives.

The BJP, however, took a dig at the TMC’s move, claiming that that the party was finding it hard to get polling agents. The jibe came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public rally.

“The situation is such that Didi’s party is not getting polling agents for booths. Earlier also, she blamed the election commission and central forces for stopping her polling agents. But now, she is publicly accepting that her polling agents have started revolting against her. Actually, TMC workers are being pressured by their own mothers and sisters at home to quit the party which has been looting poor people and shedding their blood. The anger within the party is increasing,” Modi said while addressing a rally in Howrah on Tuesday.

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