Gandhinagar: The second phase of polling in Gujarat on Monday, December 5, will have a few typical interesting elements-the role of women in panchayats and cooperatives and ‘Milk politics’. Banaskantha is a politically renowned hub.
The economy of the district is based on agro & food Processing, milk production, tourism, textile, and even mineral-based/ceramic industries. The district ranks first in the country in milk production, and the Asia’s largest Dairy Cooperative under the brand name ‘AMUL’ is Banaskantha District Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Ltd.
Banaskantha is also the first district having the highest cold supply chain of Milk by installing 1280 bulk milk chilling units. Thus as expected, electoral politics also deals a lot with issues related to these industries, dairy farming and of course empowerment of women.
The BJP leaders and Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel take pride in mentioning that the total number of women panchayat representatives is more than male representatives in Gujarat. The ‘monetary support’ to women, especially in rural Gujarat, has played a crucial role in the growth of economic activities. In Gujarat, the enrollment ratio of girls in primary education has been on constant rise.
Local BJP leader Swapan Shah says, “We in Gujarat have high respect for Matri Shakti. Our state has a perfect image where women empowerment has helped achieve many glories. The BJP as a party, Sangh as a group of pro-people initiatives and Narendra Modi as the leader always ensured an increase in women’s participation in the development journey”.
Meera Patil, an office goer in the town, says, “Do not forget, half the bank accounts in Gujarat and especially in rural areas and in our region for which milk is transferred belong to women. Cooperative system has been very strong here, and the BJP as a party has handled cooperative movement very well”.
In Palanpur, another BJP worker says – more than 70-75 cooperative office bearers are with the Lotus party. “You may not appreciate as you all have different agenda in the media, but overall, BJP will sweep the North Gujarat and the rest of the state this year”.
Even on ground zero, one gets a feeling that there is a perceptible pro-BJP wave. Political loyalties have been changing very fast and sometimes gradually. Thus, they say, the saffron party may cross 130 mark.
In this context, it can be said that even in 2002, after the riots, the saffron party could win only 127 seats — the maximum haul so far.
One local leader says, Amul as a body is now BJP-controlled, and most workers of its 18 milk unions are now with the party that is led by Modi and Amit Shah. “Even in 2019, a prominent Congress face in the region, Ramsinh Parmar quit Congress and joined the BJP”.
North Gujarat has 32 seats, and the region dominated by rural and tribal voters had given Congress 18 seats in 2017, and the remaining 14 came to the BJP.
Closer scrutiny of voters’ minds will reveal that women empowerment is certainly crucial as every gram panchayat has women representatives, including many sarpanches. These will make a difference in the 2022 voting.
An official in Gandhinagar, who is in the know of things, says these women have “creditably proved their mettle as skilled administrators and superb human beings”.
Poll analysts said while the Congress lost grip over the years, the AAP did not have adequate time and sincerity to work in-depth on these issues. The rural voters of Gujarat have solemnly stuck to the BJP despite challenges in 2017.
They say: nobody is realising a vital factor and that is — the AAP’s urban-focused approach vis-a-vis doing politics based on data and statistics.
In contrast, the refrain has been the BJP went with people and, to a large extent, women oriented issues.
Out of 182 assembly seats in the state, in general, across Gujarat – 130 of them could be counted as rural segments. Interestingly, from the statistics and also from the BJP’s point of view — the cooperative sector can influence at least 85 seats.
In all these, both the opposition parties, AAP and Congress, either simply are ‘not present’ on ground zero; or at best, they are clueless on how to handle the rural voters and the sentiments of Gujarati women. Thus, with a continuous approach, the BJP has been able to cultivate these women and rural voters and also strengthened its grip on cooperatives across the state.
BJP leaders in Ahmedabad say, “Most of you in the media missed a point that there was about 3-4 percent increase of women voters in the last five years since 2017. This Matri Shakti with their added numbers and vigour are now with us”.
Another vital factor that has helped in BJP penetrate its reach deeper is that by default or otherwise, the ‘caste’ factor, which apparently worked for Congress in many segments in 2017, has now started working in favour of the BJP.
There are some cases, wherein people had managed only 100 litres of milk a day, but various government initiatives and boosting to animal husbandry and other steps have now helped such families to increase their milk production to even 1400-1500 litres per day. So, they will obviously vote for a party whose leader is Prime Minister Narendra Modi.