Himansu Shekhar Rout

Will the women vote bank in Odisha, said to be the core strength of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), stand divided in the incoming elections?  

The ruling party is making an all-out effort to keep women SHG members in good humours by announcing financial assistance for uniforms while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has decided to distribute Shakti Samman Patra with signatures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to SHG members and community staff from March 7.

The BJP’s new political gambit has pushed the BJD on the back foot.       

BJP workers will hand out Shakti Samman Patra to SHG presidents, secretaries, MBKs, CTPs, Bankmitras, community staff, Pranimitra, assistant cook, Anganwadi workers and ASHAs, even as the party has been carrying out Nari Shakti Vandan workshops at various places. 

Moreover, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the Nari Shakti Vandan workshops from West Bengal on March 7 to be connected through virtual mode with women at 1005 zones in Odisha.   

Simantini Jena, BJP leader and state coordinator of Nari Shakti Vandan Abhinandan Karyakram said, ”Women should have income generation. We will give appreciation letters to CRPs, MBKs, Anganwadi workers, cooks, assistant cooks, Mamata Didis, ASHAs and Bank Mitras." 

On the other hand, the BJD has allegedly failed to keep its promises made for women before the 2019 elections. The major promise was to free education for girl children from KG to PG levels and Suna Kania Yojna for girls of poor families. Rs 25,000 was promised for the marriage of the poor girls. 

The BJD had also announced to hold elections for the SHG Mahasanghs from the block level to the state level and give the Cabinet rank to the state president and state minister rank to district presidents.

But elections to these associations are not being held for fear of dispute. Besides, women under Mission Shakti were promised health insurance cards and Mission Shakti bazaars in each panchayats.  

BJD MLA Sambit Routray said, “The Chief Minister has always wanted women to be self-sufficient. Odisha women are more empowered. Odisha government is the first in the country to talk about women's empowerment.  

As per reports, about 50 per cent of the voters are women in Odisha. About 70 lakh women are associated with 6.2 lakh SHGs. It remains to be seen which of the two parties manages to win more women to their sides.

Senior journalist Prasanna Mohanty said, ‘Both the BJD and the BJP are trying to grab women's votes by launching various schemes. Political parties will cahs in on women's vote bank in the name of women empowerment."


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