NEW DELHI: All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Uttar Pradesh (UP) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s announcement on Tuesday of giving 40 per cent of the party tickets in the upcoming assembly election to women is aimed at the ruling BJP which has been seeking to woo this section of the society by launching several flagship programmes for their empowerment. While making the announcement at a press conference at Lucknow, Priyanka said, “In our first pledge, we have decided that in the forthcoming UP assembly election, the Congress would distribute 40 per cent of the tickets to women. We want women to fully participate in UP politics.” Her announcement followed the release of a poster with the tagline in Hindi – ‘Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon (I am a girl, I can fight)’. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra poses for a photo at the Congress office in Lucknow on Tuesday. PTI photoThe UP assembly has 403 seats and 40 per cent of them comes to a whopping 161 seats. Assembly election in the country’s most-populous state is likely to be held in early 2022. Talking about the rationale behind giving 40 per cent of the assembly election tickets to women, the Congress leader alleged that they were neither getting united nor were becoming a consolidated force. Directing her attack at the BJP, she said, “They (women) are being divided into castes and religions. Political parties think they would please the women by giving LPG gas and Rs 2,000. But the struggle of a woman is long and deep… (It is) to rise above caste and religion.” Exhorting the women to support her in her fight, Priyanka said, “The most important thing for us is that we are women. We should understand each others’ struggle. When we see that a woman is fighting, we should think that she is also a woman and she is our sister. We should stand with her and fight with her. This is the thought behind this decision (to give 40 per cent of the tickets to women).” Her announcement seeks to neutralise the BJP’s efforts to empower women and seek their votes not just at the state level but also at the national level. The Narendra Modi government at the Centre claims to have launched numerous programmes to benefit the women by keeping them in focus. Modi, home minister Amit Shah, BJP president JP Nadda, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and all other senior party leaders tom-tom about such specific schemes for women. Moreover, the top BJP leaders have also claimed that the women-centric schemes have indiscriminately benefitted all of them by rising above politics, caste and religion. On International Women’s Day, the prime minister had tweeted: “Women are playing a leading role in India’s quest to become Aatmanirbhar. On International Women’s Day, let us commit to encouraging entrepreneurship among women. Today, I bought a few products that celebrate women enterprise, creativity and India’s culture. #NariShakti” Women are playing a leading role in India’s quest to become Aatmanirbhar. On International Women’s Day, let us comm…— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1615189626000He further said: “Saluting our indomitable #NariShakti on International Women’s Day! India takes pride in the many accomplishments of the women of our nation. It is our Government’s honour to be getting the opportunity to work towards furthering women empowerment across a wide range of sectors.” Saluting our indomitable #NariShakti on International Women’s Day! India takes pride in the many accomplishments of…— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 1615170828000The Ujjawala Yojana, under which women were given free LPG connections, seeks to do away with cooking on polluting means such as coal, forest wood, kerosene and cowdung cakes. Moreover, it is the women who have to take the pains and risk their lives from dangerous animals and insects by going to the forests to collect wood. Under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the central government claims to have built toilets (Izzat Ghar) in each household and school. The rural women had to go out of their houses in the dark to relieve themselves. Besides facing inconveniences, they used to fall prey to anti-social elements. It also used to hurt their self-respect and pride. Under the free housing scheme to the poor, the houses are being registered in the names of the women of the family. This has brought a sense of ownership to the women. Similarly, bank accounts have been opened in the names of the women and money from the central and state governments under various schemes is deposited directly into their accounts. Besides other women-centric programmes, the Modi government has launched another ambitious Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) for providing clean drinking tap water to every rural household, school, aanganwadi, ashrams and other such places by 2024. Haryana became the third state after Goa and Telangana of the country earlier this month where every family in the rural areas has started getting clean tap water in their homes. The banning of the instant triple talaq by the Modi government was also aimed at benefitting the Muslim women. By announcing the 40 per cent quota for women, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has sought to eat into the BJP votes. “Power does not mean to openly crush people. It does not mean hate.” The instances which she cited for making the announcement are all related to UP and where the Yogi Adityanath government seems to be on a backfoot, be it in Lakhimpur Kheri, Hathras, Unnao or Sonbhadra. Exhorting women from all sections of life to come forward and join her, the Congress leader said women can change the society and politics because they are the epitome of service, compassion, hard work and dedication. “Please join politics and walk shoulder to shoulder with me,” she said and invited the women to apply for candidature till November 15.

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