Through these letters, Shivraj Singh Chouhan sought another five years from ‘his sisters’ to make the state safe and prosperous for them
Madhya Pradesh is going to polls later this year. The state is a major battleground for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, especially with the general elections slated for 2019. The elections in MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan will set the trends for the big battle.
Hence, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan wins people’s mandate for his fourth consecutive term in the state. Chouhan has already started campaign tours in various parts of the state.
Over the past 15 years, one important section in Chouhan’s voter base has been women. With elections just around the corner, the chief minister has sent five lakh letters to women across the state on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. In these letters, he has talked about all of the government’s pro-women schemes.
Through these letters, he sought another five years from ‘his sisters’ to make the state safe and prosperous for them. Chouhan also asked them to send an acknowledgement via SMS, WhatsApp message or a missed call.
The state’s beloved ‘Mamaji’
Shivraj Singh Chouhan, early on, realised the importance of his women voter base. Over his three terms, he has positioned himself as a brother to all women in Madhya Pradesh. He urged children to call him ‘Mama’ (maternal uncle) to establish an emotional connection with the people, and eventually, it caught on.
With various schemes launched for young girls’ education and health, Chouhan has repeatedly positioned himself as a leader who gives women of his state due resources and credit.
Some of the schemes that the BJP government has floated in the state for women are:
1. Ladli Lakshmi Yojana: Launched in 2006, this is one of the most famous schemes by the government. It aimed to even gender ratio in the state.
2. Gaon Ki Beti Yojana: This scheme provides financial assistance to girls who have passed 12th standard.
3. Balika Shiksha Protsahan Yojana: This scheme was launched to encourage higher studies after completion of 10th standard.
4. Free Bicycle Scheme: To make the commute easier for girls if their schools are in other villages, the government distributed free bicycles.
Many other scholarships for higher education of girls have also made Chouhan popular with the female population of the state.
The chief minister last year announced a 33 percent reservation in jobs for women in all government departments, excluding the forest department. The MP government’s ‘Policy for Women’ has also been in place since 2008, which aims to sensitise women’s issues, end discrimination and ensure development for them.
The climb in the number of women voters in India has been slow but steady. Madhya Pradesh is observing a similar trend. In 2013 assembly elections, the state saw more women voters than men in 25 constituencies. The turnout of women voters was 70.11 percent, while it was 65.9 percent in 2008 elections and 62.14 percent in 2003.
Therefore, it is important for the BJP to tap into this fast-growing voter base. Recent surveys suggest that among the three upcoming state elections— MP, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan — it is imperative for BJP to win at least two, to set a positive tone for 2019.
It is, then, not surprising that Chouhan has reminded women of the state of his place as their ‘brother’ before the elections and asked for their vote to make him the leader of the state for a fourth term.
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