All major political parties in Odisha have pinned their hopes on women voters as they try to woo them to win the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in the state.
Since women constitute about 50 per cent of the state’s population, political parties are trying hard to dole out sops to catch their attention.
As per the final voter list released in January this year, there are over 3.17 crore voters, comprising 1.63 crore male and 1.54 crore female voters, who will exercise their franchise in the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The major political parties — Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) — have all come up with special schemes and policies to attract women, voters.
The BJD has announced to field women candidates in 33 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats in Odisha. Besides, the BJD-led Odisha government has also decided to provide the loan at zero per cent interest to women’s Self Help Groups for their socio-economic empowerment under “Mission Shakti” programme.
Nearly 70 lakh women are likely to be covered under the programme.
The government is also providing monetary support for pregnant women and lactating mothers under “Mamata” scheme.
Apart from this, “Biju Kanya Ratna Yojana” to improve child sex ratio and Rs 7 lakh annual health assurance cover for women under “Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana” are also being implemented in the state.
“Since the women constitute about 50 per cent (of the population), all the three main political parties are trying to woo them with various schemes and policies. There is also speculation that women will turn out in large numbers this time to vote,” said senior journalist and political analyst Rabi Das.
He said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is trying to consolidate his woman vote bank, who generously voted in 2014 ensuring a landslide victory of the BJD.
Not to be left behind, the Congress has also announced to provide several benefits to womenfolk in the state.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Odisha on the occasion of International Women’s Day announced marriage assistance to poor girls, free education for girls and increase in widow pension allowance to Rs 2,000.
He also announced to appoint a special officer at every panchayat for women security and financial corporation for women entrepreneurs running small and medium businesses.
On its part, the BJP is trying to reach out to people with its successful scheme “Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana”, under which about 40 lakh women have received free LPG connections in the state.
Besides, the party is banking on Mudra Yojana, toilet in rural areas and Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana — a small deposit scheme for the girl child.
“Even though Congress and BJP are trying to woo women voters in the state, ruling BJD is way ahead of the two national parties in the state. If they can take a stand on liquor, which is affecting the women most, the national parties may get a chance to secure women votes,” said Das.