Congress sharply focuses on women voters in poll-bound Karnataka
The Congress is sharply focusing on women voters promising cash transfers and separate manifesto months ahead of Assembly elections in Karnataka as it aims to wrest power from the BJP.
Seeking to raise the pitch, women aspirants have also been pushing for allotment of at least 15 per cent of the tickets.
The Congress has announced that Rs 2,000 would be credited to the account of woman head of households every month if it's voted to power.
Days earlier, it promised 200 units of free power a month to all homes in the State, where Assembly elections are due by May.
A separate manifesto for women is also in the works.
The Congress national general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra recently announced 'Na Nayaki' ('I am the woman leader') project here under which the 'Gruha Lakshmi' scheme offering Rs 2,000 was promised.
According to her, a separate manifesto for women, as was done in Uttar Pradesh, will be brought out in Karnataka.
Conceding that the Congress experiment of women-centric manifesto did not translate into electoral gains in Uttar Pradesh, she, however, had said it compelled other political parties to give space for women in their manifesto.
Congress women leaders are upbeat about the party's prospects in the polls.
Kavitha Reddy, who is aspiring to contest the election from Bommanahalli assembly constituency said the 'gender based politics' was necessary as women have to "realise" their power.
“Gender based politics is very important. People fight for the rights of 'Panchamasali', 'Vokkaligas' and various other communities but no one stands up for women's cause", she said.
“The women are paid less compared to men in most of private sector, especially in the unorganised sector for the same work done by men. Their salaries and wages stagnated. Women are the worst sufferers of the price rise. Hence, the 'Na Nayaki' scheme,” she told PTI.
Of the 1,350 people who had applied for ticket in 224 constituencies, 120 are women. According to Reddy, the number of women ticket aspirants was only 35 in 2018.
A Mahila Congress leader told PTI on condition of anonymity that the women in Congress had given a representation to the KPCC president D K Shivakumar demanding at least 35 tickets to women or at least ticket to one woman in each of the 31 districts of Karnataka.
"If our demands are not met we will escalate it to Congress High Command. We will also meet AICC general secretaries Randeep Singh Surjewala, K C Venugopal and others," she said.
Lavanya Ballal Jain, the Congress state general secretary heading the media and communication division in the party, too said the participation of women in politics was necessary.
“This pitch for women-centric policies and more women participation in politics is necessary to create a difference in the society,” Jain pointed out.
However, this has not impressed some non-government organisations focused on social welfare, who said freebies and "stuffing money" into the pocket will not do much for women empowerment.
Given that women lack financial independence because of "all the unpaid work that they do", it seems justified to give them social assistance of Rs 2000 as promised by the Congress party but the rush to announce freebies by all political parties seems to expose their lack of ideas on how to create mass-based productive employment, the Executive Trustee of Civic-Bangalore, Kathyayini Chamaraj said.
“Why not make anganwadi workers, ASHA workers, etc. regular government workers with enhanced pay and benefits?” she asked.
Rather than giving freebies, government should enhance paid employment opportunities, prescribe living wages as minimum wages, and collect contributions from all employers employing unorganised workers, she said.
Dr Meenakshi Bharath, a noted gynaecologist said women cannot be empowered by giving them money.
“The moot question is where Rs 24,000 a year for each woman head of the family will come from. Is it robbing Peter to pay Paul? Is that the definition of empowerment?” Dr Bharath questioned.
Dr Annapoorna Ravichander, Head, Policy Engagement and Communication and Training at the Public Affairs Committee, sought to know how the money would be dispensed and how it will be spent.
“As we have seen in many schemes, it is the women who get it, but it is the men who rule it. Now how is this Rs 2,000 going to be dispensed to the women? How much of the right she has on it, especially when you are thinking of the community?” Dr Ravichander said.
Ravichander, however, admired the scheme saying that it was a good idea provided it is implemented in a planned manner.
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