- Geeta Pandey
- BBC correspondent
There is a saying: behind every successful man there is a woman.
But behind the success of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP party in the recent assembly elections, thousands of women have a hand in it.
According to two recent studies, women have voted more for the BJP than men. In the assembly elections held between February and March, the BJP won four out of five states, including a large state like Uttar Pradesh.
Since 1962, the Election Commission started giving gender-based voting figures in general elections, since then women have been in the Congress in Lok Sabha elections.
But in 2019, for the first time, the BJP became the party that got the most votes from women.
But his party does not seem to have any specific policy towards women. Party leaders have made statements against women many times, the BJP has ruled that states are still in the headlines for not properly dealing with cases of rape of women.
One of the largest demonstrations against the government, the front of the anti-CAA demonstrations was also carried out by women. But despite all this, statistics show that more women are now voting for the BJP.
How has the landscape changed since 2014?
So how did BJP become the first choice for women in India?
Sanjay Kumar of the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) answers this question and says, “Modi is the reason.”
“It’s not all of a sudden that the party has become attractive to women. Modi is certainly a factor behind it.”
Political scientist and author Nalin Mehta did extensive research on the issue for her recent book ‘The New BJP’. He says the party started cultivating women in 1980, at the same time it formed the women’s wing.
Nalin Mehta says, “The BJP had some important and powerful women leaders then and the party made important promises on issues that matter to women, but many women did not vote for the BJP even after decades. The party saw largely dominated by patriarchal men and for women, there was not much enthusiasm for the BJP.
Nalin says there was a big change in 2019. It can be traced back to the time when Modi came to power in Gujarat in 2007, when he was re-elected.
This was the first time, Mehta says, that Modi “was very attractive to women.
56-inch chest and “militant nationalism”
At election rallies, he often spoke of his 56-inch chest, a common term for “male arrogance” used for the powerful. But the term became synonymous with Modi, known for his “radical nationalism” politics.
Says Mehta, “Every time he mentioned it, there was a deep gasp from the audience, especially from the section where women voters sat. Modi’s rallies often have more women than men. Apparently, he used to appeal to them saying, “I am your brother, I am your son, vote for me and I will protect your interests.”
“But masculinity also has its limits. So he created the image of himself as an alpha male, that is, one who can “do everything right”. This kind of focus was especially maintained on women and policies related to them, which played a very important role in Modi’s victory in the Gujarat elections in 2007 and 2012.
By 2014, Modi had further honed his skill.
In his first address to the nation in August after becoming prime minister, he appealed against female feticide, condemned rape and advised parents to raise their children better.
As prime minister, Mehta says Modi has created an identity as a “catalyst for change”, speaking out on women’s issues at public meetings and rallies. In the years 2014 and 2019, of the total of five major topics in his speeches, he was the one who spoke the most about the issue of women.
of women augmented by policies designed by populationrite
But along with Modi’s charismatic image, women’s participation in the BJP is steadily increasing in the party.
In 2019, the BJP fielded more women candidates than any other party and more women ministers were made than in previous governments.
This movement also gave a new shape to the organizational structure of the party. The party expanded its social base to include more women from rural and poor backgrounds.
“Although a significant chunk of BJP’s women supporters are from rural and below poverty line areas, the party’s welfare schemes have also ‘attracted’ them mainly,” says Mehta.
In a patriarchal country like India, women have very few property rights. Between 2014 and 2019, of the more than 17 lakh households approved for the poor, about 68% were either in the name of men alone or registered in the name of women jointly with men.
The government also built toilets in thousands of homes and helped thousands of women open bank accounts so they could directly collect pensions, allowances and other benefits.
Mehta says, “Modi is often heard saying that we are building a welfare network that will take care of women from cradle to grave. The plans are not perfect, but they are certainly making a difference. It is being done.”
“The result is that women voters consider the BJP better than other parties.”
What is the challenge of individual politics?
Maya Mirchandani, senior journalist and head of media studies at Ashoka University, says, “This support based on gender and individual politics for a party does not last long.”
She says, “Modi is a very charismatic leader and enjoys great sympathy from his supporters. His supporters see him as an ordinary person who leads a very simple life. Modi is attractive to him because he is fit, he’s not flashy or flashy. but he’s flawless in public. But it’s worth noting that he’s 71 and his charisma fades with age over time.”
It also remains to be seen, he says, whether his appeal to the people will help deal with the difficulties facing India at the moment.
Mirchandani says, “At a time when unemployment is on the rise, inflation is high and fuel prices continue to rise, the only thing that keeps his supporters hooked is the politics of religious identity. But if communal violence It’s out of our hands.The government is also not able to improve the economy, then it will be the women who will turn against Modi.
“That moment has not yet come, but it may come.”