Mahila Morcha, a branch of the BJP, starts campaigning in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh

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According to officials with knowledge of the situation, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has launched an outreach programme in the election-bound states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh by identifying women labarthis, or recipients of social welfare programmes, and enrolling those who were left out of these programmes.

The action aims to better engage female voters, a crucial constituency for the party.

One of the above-mentioned officials claimed that the party’s early-year victories in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Goa were largely attributable to the welfare programmes supported by the local and national governments as well as to the backing of female voters.

Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are scheduled to hold their assemblies this year.

The Mahila Morcha, the BJP’s women’s arm, reportedly launched an outreach programme in both states to guarantee that women vote more frequently overall and that the party wins more of their ballots.

“In the 2017 assembly election in Gujarat, there was a decline in the number of women voters, and overall turnout was lower than in the 2012 election. The senior party official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “This time, we’ll make sure there’s a bigger turnout overall and also reach out to women to raise awareness of welfare programmes that have been especially created with them in mind.”

In the Gujarat assembly, the BJP won 99 of the 182 seats in 2017, while the Congress took home 79. According to figures from the Year Commission of India (ECI), fewer persons cast ballots this election than there were total voters in the previous round of voting in 2012. 68.41% of eligible voters participated in the election, a decrease of roughly 3 percentage points from the 71.34% who did so in 2012. According to ECI data, women’s voting participation decreased by 3%.

While the party is confident that its policies, such as subsidised housing, incentives for women entrepreneurs, and subsidies for cooking fuel, will help it outperform its rivals, it is not taking any chances and has started gathering feedback on the implementation of the policies in order to fill in any gaps.

Vanathi Srinivasan, the president of the Mahila Morcha, recently visited Gujarat and conducted a survey in the Kutch district where she spoke with women to learn about the difficulties they had using government programmes.

“We questioned women about any challenges they’ve faced or requests for bribes they’ve received in order to receive benefits like Ujjwala Yojana or Awas Yojana. Regarding (implementation) plans, particularly the initiatives to supply water via the Narmada Canal, we received a favourable response. We brought up any issues or discrepancies with the state administration for a prompt resolution wherever they were brought up. For instance, we relayed Asha employees’ worries regarding compensation given that their workload has tripled since the Covid-19 epidemic, she said.

Srinivasan stated that the Morcha will concentrate on young voters, female beneficiaries, entrepreneurs, self-help groups, and social media training for its cadre to guarantee they are in touch with the electorate and aware of their demands.

There will be district-level initiatives, and we’ll teach our cadre on how to inform women of the programmes for which they qualify, she said.

The outreach in Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP won 44 of the 68 seats and took office in 2017, will follow a similar pattern. According to a party leader from the region, as employment is a major issue in the hill state, the emphasis will be on encouraging self-help groups (SHGs) among women.

The leader, who wished to remain unnamed, stated that “the proportion of women voters in Himachal Pradesh in 2017 was higher compared to men. We will ensure that the trend continues.” Women made up 49.26% of the total turnout in 2017, a rise from the 73.51% in 2012, according to ECI data.

The government’s comprehensive nutrition programme, Poshan Abhiyaan, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directive to abolish malnutrition will also be emphasised in both states.

“The PM has urged providing everyone with a healthy diet. Our main focus will be on providing nourishment for young people, expectant mothers, and nursing mothers. From September 17 (the PM’s birthday) to December 25, we will implement a number of programmes, including Swacch Bharat, tree planting, the introduction of millets to diet, conducting a survey among Poshan Abhiyaan beneficiaries, and honouring Asha workers, according to Srinivasan.

According to a recent Niti Aayog report, Gujarat is among the top three larger states in terms of overall Poshan Abhiyaan implementation.

In response to an RTI request in 2021, the women and child development ministry stated that more than 330,000 children in India are malnourished, with Maharashtra, Bihar, and Gujarat topping the list. More than half of these children fell into the seriously malnourished category.