Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again reached out to the women
of Uttarakhand with the help of an emotion-marked speech at his rally
in Dehradun, ahead of the 2022 state assembly polls. The rally saw an impressive turnout of women supporters. Several women were seen wearing traditional nose rings to mark the event with a sense of celebration and festivities.
In 2019, this author wrote in detail about how PM Modi connected with women voters in the state with work-led and emotion-led moves before and after polls. The focus and efforts of Narendra Modi's 'double engine' in
order to 'empower' women of Uttarakhand and connect with them have
represented a deviation in politics in the hill state.
His call to the women of Uttarakhand in electoral speeches is backed
by the Centre-State collaborative efforts. Along with Ujwala, Beti
Bachao Beti Padhao, the building of toilets and other efforts under
the Swachh Bharat Mission, relief packages to women self-help groups
and to the women associated with Uttarakhand State Rural Livelihood
Mission, the "double engine sarkar" under Modi has brought the Nanda
Gaura Devi Kanya Dhan Yojana, The Ghasiyari Yojana, Saubhagyavati
Yojana, the Mukhyamantri Swarojgar Yoajanas, among others, to Uttarakhand.
Even so, it is time Narendra Modi the prime minister and Modi the
leader ignited a new change in the politics of the hill state which is largely male-dominated.
The BJP would do well by giving the women leaders in the party — at all levels — a bigger, more visible, more vocal role in 2022 for 2024 and 2027. No, going with the excuse that the BJP doesn't have enough women leaders won't cut (even a) twig.
If the BJP goes for an all out women-driven, women-centric approach to its 2022 campaign, taking the Dehradun rally as the point of initiation, it would begin the process for a change that Uttarakhand really requires from the largest party and its opponents.
This, for the simple series of reasons:
One: Women leaders of the Uttarakhand BJP have been at a distance from the power games that surround their male counterparts in the party and have kept them in the news in perpetuity for all the wrong reasons. There is talent and grit at the village panchayat level that has been tapped by the party, but it needs to come out full-throated ahead of 2022.
Two: Rajasthan did have a strong woman chief minister from the BJP
leading the state. Then happened "Vasundhara teri khair nahin". Rest is recent history. Uttarakhand may not be ready for a gender shift for the top slot and the leading leadership, if you go by its stalwart storm that keeps headlines engaged. But dig deeper, and you will find that the time is ripe for a safe experiment that would eventually serve the state.
Three: In his speeches, PM Modi establishes an emotional connection with
the women of Uttarakhand. This time, he sought their blessings. He also mentions in his speeches that women are and will be instrumental in the prosperity of the state and in fighting against outmigration as family- and village-holders, and binder. The women leaders of the BJP need to fill a gap in this context.
Propelled harder in outreach towards their own villages and region, the women leaders will face those very questions from the women voters and provide solutions with greater energy and effect than the male counterparts.
Four: The women in the upper regions of Uttarakhand lead hard and
strenuous lives. Health facilities, infrastructure, livelihoods and education are and will remain areas that need more work from the political parties that rule the state in the upper districts in particular. Man-animal conflicts and uninhabited villages, outmigration, among other issues continue to challenge women.
With Modi at the helm, women leaders addressing these issues will have an impact that will be hard to outdo.
PM Modi has said that the next decade will be the decade of Uttarakhand. With women leading the largest party's show at the state-engine level, Modi himself will see the difference aiming for the decade would bring.
Five: Candidature to women at the assembly polls will pave the way
for women MLAs; a tighter connection with the Panchayat heads, BDS members and Zilla Panchayat will lead to better dispensation of the Centre-state team work on ground.
The party mahila morcha and the Mahila Mangal Dals duet in Uttarakhand can transform and speed up collaboration for the welfare and empowerment of women in the state.
It would be a bit much to expect the BJP to come up with a woman
candidate as the leading force in the state. A party that has made amends to its work and leadership, for which 2021 will be remembered, could very well think of whether the situation could have been better and different had it (honed and shaped) women leaders that would take feisty hold of responsibility in the top rung.
The change may not come immediately for 2022, but the tone can be set now, in Modi's own voice.Voters in the state and the media have seen the distinct gesture from
Modi when he patted CM Pushkar Singh Dhami's back at the Dehradun
rally. From Trivendra Singh Rawat to Teerath Singh Rawat to now Dhami,
the BJP has been on a course of making amends.
The latest: Dhami himself made the much-awaited decision of taking back the Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board Bill in November. The state leaders are aware of the weight Modi's emotional appeal to the women holds. There is no chance they would or must squander it.
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