West Bengal Election 2021: Among the key promises made in the manifesto for women are 33 per cent reservation in government jobs, pension to widows, women police battalion for better security, basic pay to ASHA workers, free transport, and free education from KG to PG.
West Bengal Election 2021: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is banking big on what it calls its silent voters in West Bengal. After having tasted success in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the BJP manifesto has an impressive line-up of schemes and monetary assistance to woo women voters in the state where incumbent chief minister Mamata Banerjee has projected herself as the daughter of Bengal to win the hearts and minds of the block that has in the past decided the fate of central and state governments. Among the key promises made in the manifesto for women are 33 per cent reservation in government jobs, pension to widows, women police battalion for better security, basic pay to ASHA workers, free transport, and free education from KG to PG.
“33% reservation for women in all state government jobs; widow pension will be increased from Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000; nine women police battalions and three women police reserve battalions will be started to safeguard women’s security; ASHA workers’ basic pay is Rs 4,500 and we will increase it to Rs 6,000; Under ‘Balika Alo’, we (BJP) will provide financial support to Dalits/adivasis/tribals and economical weak girl students; free transport for women in public transport; and education from KG to PG will be free for all women,” said the BJP’s manifesto released by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday.
West Bengal has about 3.5 crore women voters, about half of the state’s total electorate of 7.32 crore. The saffron party first realised the power of what it often refers to as silent voters in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election when it decimated the Samajwadi Party by winning 312 of 403 seats. That silent majority voting in favour of the BJP continued in the general election in 2019. The BJP claimed the massive support to the party from the women was due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s women-centric welfare schemes such as Ujjwala Yojana under which free gas cylinders were given and Swachh Bharat scheme that provided cash incentive to build toilets in every home. In 2017, the Centre also announced Rs 6,000 cash incentives to pregnant and lactating mothers to ensure they attained optimal nutritional status. The women voters rewarded the saffron party for these initiatives not only in 2017, but also in Lok Sabha election in 2019 and Bihar assembly elections in 2020.
The BJP is heavily relying on women voters to beat the sentiments against the saffron party whipped up by chief minister Mamata Banerjee by making her Bengali identity a poll issue. While the BJP has made significant inroads in Bengal, it is still behind the ruling Trinamool Congress as per an opinion poll conducted by Times Now-C Voter. The saffron party, however, says that it will form the next government by winning over 200 seats. The BJP believes that women voters are not that vocal and their views on politics often don’t find place in the surveys and opinion polls.