In a bid to woo women voters, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto, released on Friday, projected a slew of schemes aimed specifically at women.
The manifesto, which includes a section for women’s empowerment, took up the issue of women safety and promised that the BJP would set up ‘Kittur Rani Chennamma Flying Squads’ and a Special Investigative Cell to probe crimes against women. It will employ 1,000 women police officers and will also be headed by a woman officer.
As per the report published by the Bureau of Police Research Development in 2017, only 4,354 out of 70,934 (6% of the total) police personnel are women in Karnataka, a number lower than the national average of about 7%.
The Congress manifesto, that was released on 27 April, promised to increase the reservation for women officers from 20% to 33%.
Apart from this, the manifesto also promised to introduce in Bengaluru a women’s-only GPS-enabled bus service between 10 pm and 5 am for working women.
The BJP poll planks included the establishment of 30 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises to support women-run businesses. It has also promised to provide loans of Rs 2 lakh to women-only self-help groups with 1% interest, free sanitary napkins to BPL women and girl students. A Stree Unnati fund has also been promised to set up a network of women cooperatives and the establishment of Stree Unnati stores to market its products in every district and taluk headquarters.
The question of women’s safety and empowerment has dominated conversation in the run-up to the polls. It comes in the backdrop of the widespread anger and outrage in the country over the gang-rape of a child in Kathua and the rape of a young woman in Unnao.
BJP spokesperson Malavika Avinash stressed that women’s safety was high on the party’s list of priorities ahead of the elections. “There are two areas the BJP has stressed in the manifesto. One is the agrarian crisis and the other is on the state of law and order. There have been a reported 17,800 crimes against women, according to NCRB, and a high number of missing cases, nearly 4,000,” she said, speaking to TNM.
However, despite the party’s ‘focus’ on women’s issues, it has only selected 6 women candidates in the 224-member Assembly.
According to Malavika, all the tickets were distributed based on one factor - the winnability of the candidates.
“It is not about women, men, caste or creed. It is about who’s winning and who’s not. In a democracy, it is important to win to empower,” she said.
She added that important portfolios, like the post of Defense Minister, was given to women at the national level and promised that women in the state too would be given important roles if the BJP comes to power.
"There are opportunities for women in the BJP. Politics is not just about elections",she added.
With inputs from Prajwal Bhat