There are 8.3 lakh women voters in the Mysore Lok Sabha constituency and it is safe to assume that a majority of them are in rural areas

The strong network of women’s self-help groups (SHGs) in the region is on the radar of political parties.

There are 8.3 lakh women voters in the Mysore Lok Sabha constituency and it is safe to assume that a majority of them are in rural areas. Invariably, most women are part of an SHG and hence, the network is being tapped by candidates cutting across the political spectrum.

“The focus is on the more influential members and some of the bigger groups as not all of them are linked. Most such groups work independently of each other but at the village and gram panchayat level, some of the groups are interlinked with common objectives and goals,” according to M.A. Mohan of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

M. Lakshman of the Congress said that the party has not ignored any of the microscopic groups and has reached out to them through their office-bearers.

But, when it comes to Stree Shakti groups there is no uniformity in their demand, though they are in considerable numbers, Mr. Lakshman said.

“A majority of the women in the Stree Shaktri groups in N.R. Assembly segment work in the beedi industry, while those in Krishnaraja are engaged in agarbatti units. The groups spread out in the rural hinterland are into manufacturing of household products and they are not necessarily a union, though they have some kind of network and this is being harnessed,” Mr. Lakshman added.

Whether the Stree Shakti members go by the decision of their leader is a debatable issue.

Meena, a domestic help and a member of one such group, said, “She will go by her husband’s directives and vote for the symbol decided by him. “I voted for “hasta” (referring to the Congress) in the last Assembly polls and for “Kamala” (BJP) before that, as per my husband’s decision. He will decide for me this time also,” she added.

Nevertheless, no political parties are ignoring this network and the BJP has floated its own network of such groups in the Krishnaraja Assembly segment.

K.N. Shivalingaiah, District Lead Bank Manager, State Bank of Mysore, pointed out that there were nearly 40,000 SHGs in Mysore district. Norms require that an SHG should have a minimum of five members and a maximum of 20 members and assuming that there is an average of 10 members in each such group, it works out to nearly four lakh SHG members in the district.

Even if one discounts the SHGs from Varuna, Nanjangud, H.D. Kote and Krishnaraja Nagar Assembly segments as they are not part of Mysore Lok Sabha constituency, one has to reckon with the SHGs in Madikeri and Virajpet in Kodagu, and it is still a sizeable number.

Given the stakes involved and the narrow margin of victory in the last couple of elections, it is not surprising that political parties are cultivating them now.

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