Winning women’s votes in the forthcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections seems to be a major concern for all political parties in the State. As women constitute about 50 per cent of the State’s population, the parties are trying hard to dole out sops to grab their attention.
As per the final voter list released in January this year, there are over 3.17 crore voters, comprising 1.63 crore male and 1.54 crore female, who will exercise their franchise in the elections.
The three major parties, the BJD, the Congress and the BJP, have all come up with promises of special schemes and policies to attract women voters.
The BJD has announced to field women candidates in 33 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats. Besides, the party’s Government has also decided to provide loan at zero-per cent interest to women’s Self Help Groups for their socioeconomic empowerment under the Mission Shakti programme. Nearly 70 lakh women are to be covered under the scheme. The Government is also providing monetary support for pregnant women and lactating mothers under the Mamata scheme.
Besides, the Biju Kanya Ratna Yojana to improve child sex ratio and a Rs 7-lakh annual health assurance cover for women under the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana are also being implemented.
Women are likely to turn out in larger numbers this time to vote, according to political observers. In fact, the womenfolk had generously voted for the BJD in 2014 ensuring a landslide victory of the party.
Not to be left behind, the Congress has also announced to provide several benefits to womenfolk if it is voted to power. Party president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Odisha on the International Women’s Day announced marriage assistance to poor girls, free education for girls and increase in widow pension allowance to Rs 2,000.
He also announced to appoint a special officer in every panchayat for women’s security and a financial corporation for women entrepreneurs running small and medium businesses.
The BJP, on its part, is trying to reach out to women with the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, under which about 40 lakh women have received free LPG connections in the State.
Besides, the party is banking on the Mudra Yojana, toilets in rural areas and the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana, a small deposit scheme for the girl child.