BJP’s Mahila Morcha begins outreach in poll-bound Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh

Updated on Sep 12, 2022 05:14 AM IST

The move is a bid to sharpen the party’s outreach among women voters, a key constituency for the party.

A Bharatiya Janta Party worker erecting BJP flags.(Nitin Kanotra / Hindustan Times)
A Bharatiya Janta Party worker erecting BJP flags.(Nitin Kanotra / Hindustan Times)

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has started an outreach programme in poll-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh by identifying women labarthis — beneficiaries of social welfare schemes — and enrolling those who were left out of these programmes, functionaries familiar with the matter said.

The move is a bid to sharpen the party’s outreach among women voters, a key constituency for the party.

According to one of the functionaries mentioned above, the party’s victory in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa earlier this year was largely attributed to the welfare schemes supported by the state and the central government and to the support from women voters.

Assembly elections are due in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh later this year.

According to the functionary, the Mahila Morcha, which is the BJP’s women’s wing, has rolled out an outreach programme in both states to ensure the overall voting percentage among women increases and the party bags more of these votes.

“In the 2017 assembly election in Gujarat, the overall turnout was not as high as the previous election (2012) and there was a dip in the number of women voters. This time, we will ensure an overall increase in turnout and also reach out to women to create awareness about welfare programmes that have been particularly designed with them in mind…” said the senior party functionary, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In 2017, the BJP won 99 of the 182 seats in the Gujarat assembly, while the Congress bagged 79. Election Commission of India (ECI) data showed that the number of people who voted dropped by almost 840,000 as compared to the total voters in the 2012 polls. The voter turnout fell to 68.41% a drop of about 3 percentage points compared to the 71.34% registered in 2012. Among women, the voter turnout fell by 3%, ECI data shows.

While the party is confident that its schemes such as subsidised cooking fuel, housing and incentives for women entrepreneurs will help it edge past its competitors; it is taking no chances and has begun collecting feedback on the implementation of the schemes to fix lacunae.

Mahila Morcha president, Vanathi Srinivasan, who was in Gujarat recently, undertook a survey in the Kutch district where she interacted with women to find out about the problems they faced in accessing government schemes.

“We asked women if they have had to encounter any difficulties or were asked to pay bribes in getting benefits such as Ujjwala Yojana or Awas Yojana. We got a positive response about (implementation) schemes, especially the efforts to provide water through the Narmada Canal. Wherever any irregularities or concerns were raised, we took it up with the state government for quick resolution. For instance, we relayed the concerns of Asha workers about remuneration since their work post the Covid-19 pandemic has increased,” she said.

Srinivasan said the Morcha will focus on young voters, women beneficiaries, entrepreneurs, self help groups and also train its cadre in social media use to ensure they are connected to the voters and apprised of their concerns and needs.

“There will be district level programmes undertaken and we will train our cadre about how to apprise women of the schemes that they are eligible for,” she said.

The outreach in Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP came to power in 2017 winning 44 of the 68 seats, will be on similar lines. A party leader from the state said the focus will be on promoting self help groups (SHGs) among women as employment is a key concern in the hill state.

“The percentage of women voters in Himachal Pradesh in 2017 was higher compared to men, we will ensure that the trend continues,” said the leader, asking not to be named. The 2017 turnout, 74.61%, was higher than 2012’s 73.51% and women accounted for 49.26% of the total turnout, shows ECI data.

In both the states, the focus will also be on Poshan Abhiyaan — the government’s overarching scheme for nourishment — and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s instruction to eradicate malnutrition.

“The PM has called for ensuring proper nutrition for all. Our focus will be ensuring nutrition for adolescents, pregnant and lactating women. We will adopt an Anganwadi in each mandal and from September 17 (PM’s birthday) to December 25, we will carry out a series of programmes such as Swacch Bharat, tree plantation, introducing millets in diet, conducting a survey among beneficiaries of the Poshan Abhiyaan and honouring Asha workers,” Srinivasan said.

Gujarat has been ranked as one of the top three states among larger ones in terms of the overall implementation of the Poshan Abhiyaan as per a latest Niti Aayog report.

The women and child development ministry, in response to a RTI application in 2021, had said over 330,000 children in India are malnourished and more than half of them fall in the severely malnourished category with Maharashtra, Bihar and Gujarat topping the list.

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    Smriti covers an intersection of politics and governance. Having spent over a decade in journalism, she combines old fashioned leg work with modern story telling tools.

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