The Martyrs’ Day rally on Thursday was marked by an impressive presence of women, which Trinamul leaders claimed was unprecedented with no political event in recent memory drawing so many women.
Several Trinamul leaders claimed that women constituted at least 20-25 per cent of Thursday’s footfall that the party said “exceeded their expectations of 20 lakh”. Trinamul leaders said the huge presence of women was proof that Mamata’s third term as chief minister was propelled by woman power.
“The outcome of last year’s Assembly polls made it clear that the women vote bank had a significant role in ensuring the electoral sweep. The presence of women on Thursday proved that women continue to back our supremo Mamata Banerjee,” said Trinamul spokesperson Kunal Ghosh.
A large number of women joining the rally for the first time attributed it to the Mamata Banerjee government’s Lakshmir Bhandar scheme.Mamata had announced the scheme at a poll campaign last year, promising every woman a monthly dole if she returned to power. A month after she took oath as chief minister for the third time, Mamata launched the scheme that gives a monthly dole of Rs 1,000 to each woman head of Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) families and Rs 500 to those in the general category. At present, over 1.71 crore women across the state are covered under the scheme, a source said.
Manimala Dolui, 42, from Howrah’s Panchla, said she was at a political rally for the first time in her life. Happy with the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme, Dolui said she took the initiative to contact a local Trinamul leader and travel to Calcutta to listen to Mamata on Thursday.“I am from an SC family and get Rs 1,000 a month. I have three sons who are students. This money is a bonus. I try to save it for some months at a go and use it to buy books for my sons,” said Dolui.
Pushpa Das, also in her early forties, came from a village near Durgapur. Das also said Lakshmir Bhandar was her reason to join the rally.Trinamul leaders said most women had come from Bengal districts, including many from the north, and had to travel quite a distance.
“Women showed more enthusiasm to come to Calcutta. Around 20,000 people from my district attended the event and at least 30 per cent were women. Lakshmir Bhandar helped draw women to the rally,” said Mahua Gope, the Trinamul’s Jalpaiguri district chief.
This year Trinamul focused on bringing more people from north and western Bengal where the BJP had done well in the Assembly polls.
Women apart, the presence of youths and tribal communities was also significant at the rally. The Trinamul leadership had asked districts to ensure at least 50 per cent of the people coming to Calcutta for the rally be from the 20-35 years age group.
“I can see only my youths and students here. You have to fight with us till the end. Will you be with me to fight against the BJP?” asked Mamata at one point during her speech.
Sources said that the presence of tribal people was also impressive. A group of tribal people from villages in the proposed Deocha-Pachami coal mine also came to the rally.Trinamul leaders said the target of bringing more youths to the rally had been accomplished as was the party’s focus to use the event as a platform to connect with tribal community. “Women of our homes have Swasthya Sathi cards and get Rs 1,000 per month under the Lakshmir Bhandar scheme. Didi has done a lot for us,” said Shibdas Hansda of East Burdwan’s Galsi, on why there was a high turnout of tribal women.