New Delhi: The BJP’s lack of giving prominence to women leaders in West Bengal in the run-up to the Assembly elections might prove detrimental to the party, with the ruling Trinamool Congress focusing its entire campaign around Mamata Banerjee, a strategy that has been devised by keeping in mind the almost 50% women voters in the state.
As per the draft electoral roll for the state published last year, there were 35,145,288 female electors in the state, with more women enrolling their names on the voters’ list compared to men after last year’s Lok Sabha elections. Almost 11 lakh women have enrolled their names on the list in the last one year, while the number of men who have joined the rolls is 8.5 lakh. According to officials, in West Bengal, women voters are likely to cross the 50% mark, following which the state would become the fourth major state after Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to achieve this feat. As per the 2019 data, the total voters in West Bengal were 70,001,284, with female voters being 34,048,666 in number and with 35,951,289 being male.
According to political observers, the importance of more than 3.5 crore female voters was recognised by Mamata Banerjee long ago.
“Post the 2019 elections, she formed the ‘Banga Janani Bahini’, a party wing to look after the welfare of thousands of Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers. These ASHA workers have close affinity with voters at the grassroots and are acting as diplomats for Mamata Banerjee. Almost 40% of the tickets in the 2019 elections were given by Mamata Banerjee to female candidates. The TMC’s campaign revolves around the ‘pride of daughter of West Bengal’. It seems the BJP has failed to take into account the impact of women voters in the state,” a Kolkata-based veteran journalist said.
For the 2021 Assembly elections, the TMC has given tickets to 50 women candidates—17% of the total candidates for 294 seats.
On Wednesday, top BJP leaders—who have been given the responsibility of devising election strategies and candidate selection for West Bengal, including Kailash Vijayvargiya, Mukul Roy, Dilip Ghosh, Amitava Chakrobarty, Suvendu Adhikari and Shiv Prakash—were clicked at the Kolkata airport as they were waiting to board their chartered flight to Delhi to present their recommendations before the central leadership. There was not a single woman leader among them.
The BJP in West Bengal has multiple women leaders, who have risen up the ranks, faced prison and physical violence like Mamata Banerjee had. According to a BJP district president, presenting women leaders as the face of the campaign would have definitely helped the party, as women voters have a soft corner for Mamata Banerjee and that can somewhat be dented by the BJP by bringing its own women leaders in the forefront of the campaign.
The BJP in West Bengal has multiple prominent women leaders like Locket Chatterjee who is a Lok Sabha member from Hoogly and also a general secretary of the state unit; Agnimitra Paul, who is the president of the Mahila Morcha; Rajya Sabha member Rupa Ganguly; Debashree Chowdhury, who is a minister in the Union Cabinet and an MP from Raiganj; former IPS officer and former Lok Sabha party candidate Bharati Ghosh; and ace swimmer and party’s state vice president, Mafuza Khatun.
On the other hand, the TMC, whose campaign is led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, is using all the prominent women leaders that it has in its ranks like Chandrima Chaterjee, Mahua Moitra, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Dola Sen, Mimi Chakraborty and Nusrat Jahan, to woo women voters by giving them prominent space in the campaigning.