New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) women’s wing is gearing up for an extensive outreach to women voters across the country in the run up to elections in five states and amid a heated political debate over sexual violence in Manipur.
The BJP Mahila Morcha’s elaborate programme to attract women voters includes tying rakhis to rickshaw-pullers and delivery boys, holding kamal kirtans (religious gatherings), first-time voter conferences, smart city conferences, and making people aware of the work Modi government has done since coming to power in 2014, ThePrint has learnt. The strategy has been devised under the leadership of Vanathi Srinivasan, National President of the Mahila Morcha.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram are set to go to polls over November and December this year.
According to Vanathi Srinivasan, the party aims to target women voters in the 18 to 25 age group, and will reach out to more than 1,000 first-time voters in each assembly seat. The outfit will also visit over 500 colleges and institutions across the five poll-bound states.
“Earlier, it was the men who decided the votes of a family, including for women and the elderly,” Rekha Gupta, the national vice-president of BJP’s Mahila Morcha, told ThePrint Tuesday. “It was common perception that women would vote for whoever their husbands asked them to. But this has now changed. Women have a mind of their own and they choose their political leaders according to their will. Which is why our responsibility to reach out to women voters has increased.”
The Mahila Morcha, she added, recently conducted a meeting with the election and state in-charges of poll-bound states to decide the strategy for the next few months.
Elaborating on the plans, Gupta said that for the Raksha Bandhan festival in late August, the women wing workers will tie rakhis on rickshaw-pullers, auto-drivers and delivery boys. Women members of the party will also tie rakhis on Ram Mandir construction workers in Ayodhya. During the festival of Navaratri in October, kamal kirtans will be organised in the northern states, during which women will sing bhajans (devotional songs) in temples and at local festival sites.
“Women are often involved either in their family programmes or religious programmes, so this is one of the reasons we have planned this as part of the election strategy,” Gupta explained.
Another Mahila Morcha leader told ThePrint: “The party will prepare some songs to perform in these kirtans which will promote the initiatives and achievements of the BJP. Some common theme songs will be sung, but local bhajans and other songs will also be performed.”
For states other than in north India, local festivals will be simultaneously organised, such as Bathukamma festival in Telangana and tribal festivals in Mizoram. The party plans to organise these festivals in over 25,000 regional centres called Shakti Kendras across the poll-bound states, she added.
Following Uttar Pradesh strategy
Gupta told ThePrint that the BJP was following the strategy it had employed in Uttar Pradesh for the state polls last year, which it won easily.
“In the UP elections, we had raised women’s issues and women voters had given full marks to the BJP and Yogi Adityanath-led state government on matters such as women’s safety,” she said.
“We had outlined a special outreach programme for the state which gave us good results as more women voters turned up to vote than male voters. The same strategy of meeting women and holding gatherings to promote the Modi government’s work is being followed for the upcoming state elections now,” she explained.
When asked whether the BJP had formulated any special strategy to deal with questions on women’s safety in the wake of a video from Manipur that showed two women being paraded naked by a mob, Gupta said the “women karyakartas (workers) are aware of the subject and can handle it sensitively”.
“There is no special strategy, but our karyakartas are aware. They know what subjects are in discussion and what is the existing dialogue on it. It is routine training for them to deal with such questions and they can handle them well,” she added.
This is an updated version of the article.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)