Women, religion at core of poll manifestos of BJP, Congress

The BJP's women's manifesto promises bicycles for schoolchildren, scooters for college students, and improved'shagun,' which includes monetary assistance, for the marriage of girls from low-income families.

Women, religion at core of poll manifestos of BJP, Congress Image Credit: ANI; Representational Image

Shimla: Issues related to women and religion form the core of the poll manifestos of the BJP and the Congress, with both parties vying with each other in announcing sops to woo voters for the crucial November 12 assembly elections. Women account for nearly half (49 per cent) of the population of the hill state and the principal rivals have gone out of the way to impress them this time. While the Congress on Saturday unveiled the "Har Ghar Lakshmi, Nari Samman Nidhi” promising Rs 1500 per month to adult women besides 300 units of free power which too would potentially ease the living of women, the BJP on Sunday launched a dedicated manifesto for the female voters calling the document Stree Sankalp Patra.

BJP manifesto for women

The BJP manifesto for women promises bicycles for schoolgoers, scooties for college students and enhanced 'shagun', which includes monetary assistance, for the marriage of girls from BPL families. ‘Stree Shakti Sankalp’ also ambitiously offers 33 percent reservation to women in government jobs and educational institutions.

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Mukhmantri Shagun Yojna

A corpus fund of Rs 500 crores for interest-free loans to women entrepreneurs will be set up for homestays and financial support for the marriage of girls belonging to below-poverty-line families will be raised from Rs 31,000 to Rs 51,000 under the ongoing Mukhmantri Shagun Yojna.

Another thrust area of the manifestos of both parties is religion with the BJP promising a ?Him Teerath? circuit to link major temples and Shakti Peeths by launching 45 special busses from New Delhi, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Meerut and Mathura.

Temples and Pilgrimages

The Congress has for the first time included a stand-alone segment in its manifesto on "Devsthan and Tirth Yatras" (Temples and Pilgrimages). The segment promised to pay for a free pilgrimage of all elderly (accompanied by one attendant) to a shrine of choice; doubling the annual contribution to state-supported temples and double emoluments to temple priests. The BJP also promised to implement the Uniform Civil Code and survey Waqf properties to end alleged illegalities therein. Making a religion-centric pledge in its poll manifesto, the Congress promised to develop tourism circuits to strengthen religious tourism and a special budget for the restoration and modernisation of temples.

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The thrust of parties on women is rooted in the fact that the women voters in Himachal have been outnumbering men in all elections since 1998. Also, out of Himachal's 5574793 voters, 2846201 are men and 2728555 are women. The BJP manifesto seeks to woo the segment with several promises ranging from three free LPG cylinders to women of poor households, enrolment of all women over 30 years from poor families under the Atal Pension Scheme and two hostels per district.

It promised Rs 2500 monthly scholarship for 50000 meritorious female students of government schools during the course of graduation, among many pledges. The pro-women push of the BJP comes close on the heels of the party's historic win in Uttar Pradesh, where the silent women voters were seen as a decisive factor behind the party's re-election, a first for any incumbent government in 37 years. The BJP clocked a lead of 16 percent among women voters over its rival SP-led alliance in UP.

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