Modi interacts with women from across the country over video-conference

Ample references to Gujarat, technical glitches and absence of any controversial questions marked the “Chai pe Charcha with NaMo” on Saturday that saw Bharatiya Janata Party prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi interacting with women from across the country through video-conferencing from the party headquarters in New Delhi.

Responding to the first question from Allahabad, Mr. Modi said discrimination was a big problem faced by women and called for greater freedom of birth, education and to make choices over career and marriage.

“There is one attitude towards sons and another towards daughters. To end this discrimination, there is need for social awareness,” he said.

“[They] should have freedom of birth, freedom of education...freedom to choose time of marriage, freedom to choose career. They should have a say in deciding the size of the family,” Mr. Modi added.

The “Chai pe Charcha” programme, an effort by the BJP to woo voters ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, was conceptualised in the context of Mr. Modi’s references to his “humble origins as a tea seller”.

On Saturday, he interacted for two hours with women from Ranchi, Chindwara, Danapur, Sambalpur and Bangalore, and callers from Tokyo, Germany and Washington D.C., etc.

Mr. Modi made several references to his home turf of Gujarat and highlighted his own initiatives to improve girl child education in the rural areas of the State. He also spoke of women task forces set up to protect lions in the Gir forest and all-women police forces in-charge of several villages.

“Over the years I have collected the gifts I received as Chief Minister and auctioned them for the cause of girl child education. So far, I have collected Rs.70 crore. I am happy to note that people think of me as a Chief Minister who does not take anything. Most people are accused of taking things for themselves,” said Mr. Modi, hinting at corruption charges against politicians.

Fielding a question on how he will improve the safety and security of women, he said that he will encourage a 50 per cent women cadre in the NCC network.

“More women should enter the legal profession so that awareness about issues concerning women increases. Every man should be made to feel shame for an act committed by another man. The entire fraternity should feel bad and voices should be raised in front of men.”

Mr. Modi also encouraged women to enrol as voters through the special drive organised by the Election Commission.

“Elections have been announced and if women together decide who to vote for then no vote bank will work in this country,” he said, noting that voter registration is lesser among women as compared to men and this discrepancy should be done away with.

Meanwhile, despite the Delhi BJP unit stating that Mr. Modi will connect with 81 locations in the city, many residents were left disappointed and complained about non-availability of two-way interaction with him. In some places, no facilities were provided to connect with the party headquarters.

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