Himachal Pradesh Election 2022: Women and religion at core of BJP and Congress poll strategy
The Congress, for the first time, included a separate section in its manifesto on 'Devsthan and Tirth Yatras' (Temples and Pilgrimages), promising to pay for a free pilgrimage to a shrine of choice for all elderly (accompanied by one attendant), the BJP unveiled the 'Stree Sankalp Patra,' a dedicated manifesto for female voters.
Women's and religious issues are the core of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress' election manifestos, with both parties competing to entice voters ahead of the crucial November 12 assembly elections.
Women make up nearly half (49 per cent) of the hill state's population, and the main rivals have gone out of their way to impress them this time.
While the Congress unveiled the 'Har Ghar Lakshmi, Nari Samman Nidhi' on Saturday, promising Rs 1,500 per month to adult women and 300 units of free power, which would potentially ease women's lives, the BJP on Sunday launched a dedicated manifesto for female voters called 'Stree Sankalp Patra.'
The BJP's women's manifesto promises bicycles for school children, scooters for college students, and improved 'shagun,' which includes monetary assistance for the marriage of girls from low-income families.
Stree Shakti Sankalp also offers women 33 per cent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions.
Under the ongoing 'Mukhmantri Shagun Yojna', a corpus fund of Rs 500 crores will be established for interest-free loans to women entrepreneurs, and financial support for the marriage of girls from low-income families will be increased from Rs 31,000 to Rs 51,000.
Religion is another focus of both parties' manifestos, with the BJP promising a Him Teerath circuit connecting major temples and Shakti Peeths by launching 45 special buses from New Delhi, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Meerut, and Mathura.
For the first time, Congress has included a separate section in its manifesto on 'Devsthan and Tirth Yatras' (Temples and Pilgrimages).
The segment promised to pay for a free pilgrimage to a shrine of choice for all elderly (accompanied by one attendant), to double the annual contribution to state-supported temples, and to double emoluments to temple priests.
The BJP also promised to implement the Uniform Civil Code and survey Waqf properties to eliminate alleged illegalities.
In its election manifesto, Congress promised to develop tourism circuits to boost religious tourism and a special budget for temple restoration and modernization.
The focus of parties on women stems from the fact that women have outnumbered men in all Himachal elections since 1998. In addition, of the 5574793 voters in Himachal, 2846201 are men, and 2728555 are women.
The BJP manifesto attempts to woo the segment by promising three free LPG cylinders to women from low-income households, enrollment in the Atal Pension Scheme for all women over 30 from low-income families, and two hostels per district.
Among other things, it promised a Rs 2500 monthly scholarship for 50000 meritorious female students in government schools during their graduation.
The BJP's pro-women push comes on the heels of the party's historic victory in Uttar Pradesh, where the party's re-election was aided by the silent women voters, a first for any incumbent government in 37 years.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP led the SP-led alliance by 16 per cent among female voters.
(With inputs from PTI)