‘This time, triumph will belong to the brother who promises a brighter future, not the one who merely remembers his sisters during elections and then vanishes.’

Even as political currents shift within the election-bound state of Madhya Pradesh, one pivotal demographic is taking centre stage in the campaign: Women.

With an estimated 24 million female voters of a total of 50 million eligible voters, the Bharatiya Janata Party is mounting a passionate effort to win their support.

However, the saffron party does not have everything going in its favour this time.

These women voters are also influenced by factors such as anti-incumbency stemming from the BJP’s nearly two-decade rule, rising inflation, and soaring unemployment rates, collectively making it a challenging election for the BJP.

“This time, triumph will belong to the brother who promises a brighter future, not the one who merely remembers his sisters during elections and then vanishes,” says Rekha Devi, a 40-year-old vendor of artificial jewellery near Gwalior Palace.

“We might as well forget about that brother,” a grinning Devi says.

Her comments are directed towards BJP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who, at a recent public gathering, while expressing his deep connection with the women of MP, stated, ‘You will not find a brother like me, and you will miss me when I’m not around.’

Shivraj’s heartfelt plea underscores the party’s commitment to securing the trust and loyalty of women.

The saffron party commenced its efforts with the introduction of the Mukhyamantri Ladli Behna Yojana, the declaration of a 35 per cent quota for women in government positions, including the police, and the reduction in gas cylinder prices.

However, it’s the Mukhyamantri Ladli Behna Yojana that has managed to capture the hearts of some of the disheartened sisters in the state.

A total of 12 million women have enrolled in the programme, which provides incentives of Rs 1,250 to women between the ages of 21 and 60.

In response to the BJP’s strategic move, the Opposition party, the Congress, also promised a monthly payment of Rs 1,500 to women.

However, its pledges appear to have made little impact on winning over female voters in the state.

Sarita Sharma, a homemaker residing in Bhopal, is well-informed about the Congress offering a larger incentive.

However, she prefers to continue with the existing scheme because she has concerns about whether her name would be included if any modifications take place.

“It took months to collect all the required documents for registration. What if the other party leaves me out?” she remarks, voicing her apprehensions.

Missing the incentive is one of the major apprehensions among women in the state.

Devi is still unable to claim the incentive as she cannot register due to a change in her phone number.

Officials have advised her to update her phone number in both her bank and Aadhaar records before she can proceed with enrolment.

After several frustrating days of unsuccessful attempts at the bank and the Aadhaar centre, she has given up on the idea of receiving Rs 1,250 due to the humiliation and is now focusing on selling her jewellery.

Although the BJP is making efforts to include all women in the programme, not all women are aware of this initiative.

Fifty-five-year-old Ramrati in the industrial town of Indore is still unaware of the scheme because no one has informed her or reached out to her for registration.

While uneducated women in rural areas of MP express that the scheme has been a lifeline, educated women believe that the government’s introduction of the scheme just months before the elections is part of their strategy to perpetuate their rule marked by corruption and poverty.

Sheetal, an MA student at the Government Maharani Laxmi Bai Girls PG College in Indore, says that the BJP’s strategy is aimed at wooing uneducated women.

Although the BJP has announced the recruitment of more than 100,000 youth for government jobs and has also increased the quota for women, Sheetal believes it is of no use as all the examinations are rigged in the state.

“All examinations seem rigged, and job opportunities are scarce. I want to elect someone who can promise a secure future.”

Sheetal’s friends agree with her and say, “The government has failed to live up to the expectations of educated youth. Now, it wants to take the vote of uneducated women. But this time, women are going to vote for the future of their kids, not just a few hundred rupees.”

Although the majority of the women are happy that they are getting financial assistance from the state, males in the state ask why the government has not come up with such a scheme for them.

“Why is Mama giving money only to his sister and niece and not to his brother-in-law and nephew?” asks Sachin Meena, a 21 year old.

Although women in Meena’s family have always voted where the elders have asked them to vote, he also feels that this scheme has granted them the autonomy to express their individual preferences.

“Everyone is contemplating that if the government changes, this financial assistance might also cease,” Meena says.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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