Mahila Congress wants focus on price rise, women’s safety

The Congress has decided to launch a countrywide campaign, Mahila Adhikar Yatra, to “spur the suppressed anger” among women — they constitute nearly half of India’s 1.3 billion population — over price rise and women’s safety.

india Updated: Sep 29, 2018 23:44 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mahila Congress,price rise,women’s safety
The drive will be conducted in the other poll-bound states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana before it is taken across the country in the run-up to next year’s general elections. (AP/File Photo)

The Congress may be going all out to target the Narendra Modi government on the Rafale aircraft deal, but its women’s wing wants the party to turn its attention also to “the rising public anger” over increasing prices in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

The grand old party has decided to launch a countrywide campaign, Mahila Adhikar Yatra, to “spur the suppressed anger” among women — they constitute nearly half of India’s 1.3 billion population — over price rise and women’s safety.

All India Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev had flagged these issues at a recent meeting with senior party leaders. “Price rise and women’s safety will remain the key issues for the women of this country. They are more concerned about these issues than anything else,” Dev said.

“Price rise is connected to their kitchens. During my campaign, I have come across female voters who talk about the small but basic things of life.”

Dev said skyrocketing petrol and diesel prices “are burning a hole in the pockets of the people who will express their angst by voting against the government in the upcoming elections.”

Apart from alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal, alleged bank scams, other corruption allegations, the flight of businessmen Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi who are all wanted in connection with cases in India , there is a considered view in the Congress that the rising prices of fuel and essential commodities will hurt the prospects of the BJP in the 2019 general elections, as had happened with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The Mahila Congress launched the campaign from Chhattisgarh as a pilot project to test whether the issues of rising prices, safety and unemployment get traction among women voters in the tribal-dominated state ruled by the BJP for the past 15 years (since 2003).

Apart from corner meetings, night marches and a campaign to get handprints of women on white pieces of cloth to highlight their insecurities were also organised. “The success of the campaign prompted us to make it a national movement,” Dev said.

The drive will be conducted in the other poll-bound states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana before it is taken across the country in the run-up to next year’s general elections. As part of the campaign, the hand-printed pieces of cloth will be collected and handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The women’s wing is also in the process of finalising a mobile app for interaction with female voters, who can make suggestions on issues and subjects to be incorporated in the Congress manifesto for the 2019 elections. Dev said Congress president Rahul Gandhi, too, would interact with women through this app during nationwide campaign.

During the September 10 Bharat bandh called by the Congress over rising fuel prices, Dev had travelled in public transport along with women leaders and workers to find out the people’s views on the issue.

Responding to the Mahila Morcha’s campaign on price rise, BJP MP Anil Baluni said that the Congress “does no homework” and that data shows inflation to be much lower than it was during UPA’s tenure. “But we realise it is election time and they will try to make an issue out of nothing...”

Political observers said that while the Mahila Congress has raised issues that concern the majority of women in the country, the real challenge is to sustain the campaign till the 2019 elections.“It is good that the Congress party has revived its women’s wing which remained dormant for many years. The Mahila Congress is raising the right issues but much depends on how successfully they will be able to sustain the momentum till the elections. Moreover, the impact of the campaign remains to be seen,” said Delhi-based political analyst N Bhaskara Rao.

First Published: Sep 29, 2018 23:23 IST