Congress blitz to garner women’s votes

Game plan includes an app on manifesto, night marches and open gatherings

September 29, 2018 11:04 pm | Updated 11:04 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Karnataka, Hubballi: 27/02/2018: Women wearing masks of Rahul Gandhi at the Congress rally in Hubballi on February 26, 2018.

Karnataka, Hubballi: 27/02/2018: Women wearing masks of Rahul Gandhi at the Congress rally in Hubballi on February 26, 2018.

An app to connect the voices of women on the ground to the Congress’s manifesto; night marches through busy streets and squares of small towns to grab maximum attention on issues such as women’s safety and price rise; and finally, chaupal s (open gatherings) among rural women.

The Congress’s blueprint to reach out to women voters for the 2019 Lok Sabha election is ready and is now being quietly tried out in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana after a soft launch in Chhattisgarh on September 20.

Lok Sabha member Sushmita Dev, who heads the All India Mahila Congress, said, “50% of the population is women and the gap between women and men in terms of voting is just 1.46 [percentage points] in our country. So it’s not that women don’t come out to vote. We believe that the party that gets the vote of the youth and the women will form the next government.”

Higher vote share

Studies done by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies have backed such claims. For example, in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls, a post-poll survey by the CSDS revealed that the BJP’s vote share among women was 2% higher than men and was clearly the differentiating factor in a close election.

In Tamil Nadu, during the 2016 Assembly polls, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam could buck the trend of the ruling party losing out every five years only because women overwhelmingly voted for the late Jayalalithaa. “Women do attend political rallies of big leaders, but most women voters stay at home. We will go across India under the banner of Mahila Adhikar (women’s rights) yatras and take their feedback. We have developed an app that will record voices and videos of women,” Ms. Dev said.

She said the charter of demands would then be forwarded to the party’s manifesto committee, headed by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.

Ms. Dev said their surveys show that the demands of women differed depending on their background.

“If you are in an urban area, safety and employment are the biggest issues, while for rural women, who don’t venture out too often, issues like health and subsidised rations matter more,” she said.

“We are also doing night marches (immediately after sunset) to highlight the issue of women safety and price rise. Hundreds of women taking to busy streets leaves a powerful impact,” said Ms. Dev. She added the campaign would eventually culminate in a rally in Delhi, after covering the entire country in the next few months.

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