KOLKATA: Large hoardings put up by the TMC which screamed ‘Bangla Nijer Meyekei Chaye’ (Bengal wants her own daughter) in the run-up to the assembly polls were possibly installed with an eye on the decisive 49 per cent female electorate in the state, whose votes were being wooed both by Bengal tigress Mamata Banerjee and rival BJP.
By the afternoon of May 2, it was loud and clear that women as well as men in West Bengal had not just chosen one daughter – Mamata Banerjee – but several others.
Women candidates, irrespective of their political affiliation, are basking in electoral glory, with several female nominees emerging triumphant in the high-octane elections, including TMC’s Ratna Chatterjee, Shashi Panja and Chandrima Bhattacharya, and BJP’s Agnimitra Paul, Chandana Bauri and Tapasi Mondal.
The Trinamool Congress had fielded as many as 50 women candidates this time, while the Bharatiya Janata Party nominated around 37, and both positioned women-centric issues at the heart of their poll campaigns.
Bhattacharya, the TMC’s winning candidate from Dum Dum Uttar, asserted that her party has always been sensitive to the needs of women, and will continue to empower them.
“Our poll manifesto has multiple programs for women, including monthly stipend. A lot has been done by our government to ensure that men and women are treated as equals.”
“The TMC will continue to do its bit for them in the days to come,” said Bhattacharya, who defeated her nearest rival of the BJP, Archana Majumdar, by 28,499 votes.
Echoing her, Chatterjee, the ruling party’s winner from Behala Purba, said the TMC boss, being a woman, identifies with the problems faced by the state’s women electorate.
“She is a self-made leader, and would want every woman in the state to become self-reliant, too. The TMC has floated several schemes with an eye on improving living standards of women, prioritised their health and education. As an MLA, I would also strive to uplift the condition of women in my constituency,” Chatterjee said.
Women’s issues have been a rallying point for both the TMC and its bitter opponent, the BJP, ahead of the elections, with the Mamata Banerjee camp underscoring its welfare schemes such as Swasthya Sathi and Kanyashree, and the saffron party harping on the Centres Ujjwala Yojana.
“If one woman can show the resolve to fight all- powerful politicians from Delhi on her own, why should the women electorate not take inspiration and be a part of her battle? “Her women nominees deserved every single vote the mothers, daughters and sisters of Bengal gave them,” said Sabita Halder, who exercised her franchise from the Dum Dum Uttar constituency.
“As a woman, I felt ashamed at Dilip Ghosh’s (Bengal BJP chief) ‘Bermuda’ jibe at Mamata. PM Narendra Modi’s sarcastic ‘Didi o didi’ tone for her was also completely unwarranted. I am sure other women voters, too, took umbrage at such discourse,” Seema Pramanik, a PhD engaged in research work, who voted from the Sonarpur Dakshin constituency, said.
A video clip of Ghosh apparently suggesting Mamata Banerjee should wear Bermuda shorts to display her injured leg had triggered controversy and outrage back in March.
According to political analyst Udayan Banerjee, BJP’s aggressive election machinery did work to an extent, and the party managed to pocket some of the prized seats in the state.
What, however, went against the saffron camp were the barbs its leaders aimed at Banerjee, some of which were in poor taste, he said.
“The bermuda taunt did not go down well with women voters, who have in large numbers voted for Banerjee and her party. Modi also received flak from several quarters for her ‘Didi o didi’ exclamation in his election speeches. Goes without saying, Bengal did not take kindly to those jibes,” Banerjee added.
The BJP had also tried to curry favour with Muslim women by patting itself on the back for the initiative to abolish instant triple talaq – branding the move as a step taken towards emancipating them from the clutches of dogmatic practices.
Asked about the saffron partys persistent claims that women were unsafe in Bengal, Chatterjee — who trounced BJPs Payal Sarkar by 37,428 votes — stated, “Bengal has never experienced a Hathras-like episode, and hopefully it never will.
“BJP should first check crimes against women in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi before pointing fingers at our state. Women in Bengal are safer than in most other places in the country.”
A senior BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, claimed that lack of a chief ministerial face or an aggressive woman leader to fight Banerjee has also been a major drawback for his party.