News Desk: As the West Bengal elections come closer, the TMC is going all out to hold on to a section of the population they believe has been a key support base for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee — the woman voter.
From the recently announced slogan, “Bangla Nijer Meyeke Chai” (Bengal wants its own daughter) to accusing the BJP of insulting Durga and Sita and pushing the state government’s schemes for women, TMC leaders said the next few months would see the party focus on the woman electorate.
A TMC leader said the move is based both on Banerjee’s popularity among women and their anticipation of what the BJP campaign will be.
“It is undeniable that Mamata Banerjee is very popular among women in Bengal. But this is also important if we look at the opposition. The BJP, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi, always tries and captures the women vote, speaking constantly of schemes like Ujjwala,” a senior party strategist said.
As per official data, 49 per cent of the 7.32 crore electorate in the state are women. In the last two Assembly elections, the percentage of women voting on polling day has been higher than men — in 2011, women outvoted men with 84.45 per cent against 84.22 per cent and in 2016, with 83.13 per cent against 82.23 per cent.
On Wednesday, reaching out to women voters at a rally in Hooghly, Banerjee said the Prime Minister came to Bengal and said women and sisters are not safe. “I want to ask are women in the BJP party safe?… Are they safe in Uttar Pradesh? Are they safe in Bihar? Are they safe in Rajasthan? Are they safe in Madhya Pradesh?,” she said.
She also referred to the CBI questioning her nephew and MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife. “But tell me my mothers and sisters, can they insult mothers and sisters? You entered my house, and a girl who is 22-23 years old, the home’s bahu… you are calling her a coal thief? And you are roaming around with coal thieves yourselves. They have no shame,” she said.
Addressing a rally at Jalpaiguri last week, Abhishek said, “Those who demean Maa Durga, insult women, in whose states despicable incidents like Unnao and Hathras take place, do you want to bring them to Bengal?.. We Bengali people have not heard Jai Shri Ram, we have heard Jai Siya Ram… They say Jai Shri Ram.…means Sita is not there. In their states women are exploited, marginalised and threatened.”
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Chief Whip of TMC in Rajya Sabha said, “In Bengal, women are very safe when compared to UP and other BJP-ruled states. If you look at women’s participation at all major rallies of Mamata Banerjee or other party leaders, there is a huge turnout. Proportion of men and women voters is almost 50:50, and even the population ratio is almost 50:50. That way the importance of women voters is very crucial and every party wants their support. But Banerjee has already made a solid base among them. They feel safe because a woman Chief Minister is at the helm.”
“Soon after becoming CM, she started doing so much work for them. One of these is self-help groups with women, and now we have over 40,000 self-help groups all over West Bengal. Everyone is earning something with their dignity intact. Number three is Kanyashree, which has even got appreciation from the United Nations,” Ray said.
The Kanyashree scheme provides girl students between the ages of 13 years and 18 years an annual scholarship of Rs 1,000, and a one-time grant of Rs 25,000 when she turns 18 provided she is unmarried.