Talk, period: How a Haryana candidate is reaching out to women voters
While women constitute nearly 46 per cent of the voting population in Haryana, their turnout is among the lowest in the country.
Bhavya’s grandfather, Bhajan Lal, was thrice elected chief minister of Haryana from Hisar. Both his father and mother hold Assembly seats in Haryana — Kuldeep Singh Bishnoi holds the Adampur constituency, while Renuka Bishnoi holds the seat from Hansi.
As he campaigns in the dusty Jat bastion of Haryana, Bishnoi is also busy 'breaking the ice' with a completely new constituency- its women.
While most male politicians in the past are known to have relied on a tribe of mothers, sisters and daughters to canvass among women electors in a state which is infamous for its skewed sex ratio and patriarchal attitudes to women, Bishnoi has been spending time with the women of his constituency to understand their problems and to encourage them to vote.
"Women largely stay invisible and I also initially relied on my mother to mobilise them," says Bishnoi. "It is only in the last six months that I have managed to break the ice with them. We had organised a menstrual awareness camp that had mobilised nearly 1,000 girls."
The menstrual hygiene camp was organised as part of the programmes carried out by the Bhajan Global Impact Foundation, set up by Bhavya and his family in the region.
"With the help of women party workers, we distributed sanitary napkins among them and got them to talk about the issue. Many girls later kept coming back to pick up napkins for their friends and relatives," he tells ET. "We also distributed napkins that could be reused. They were an instant hit."
Since then, Bhavya has been a regular at sabha meetings organised for women, apart from the regular jan sabhas organised as part of the campaigning. Women still come with their heads and faces covered, but he is glad that he is able to connect with them directly. "Most women rely on the opinion of men and elders of the family when it comes to voting preferences. I want women to come forward and vote with their own minds," he says.
While women constitute nearly 46 per cent of the voting population in Haryana, their turnout is among the lowest in the country. While they lag behind men in almost all constituencies in the state, the turnout of women voters is the lowest in Karnal, Sonepat and Gurugram.
Apart from addressing women directly, Bishnoi has also brought out a separate manifesto for Hisar and hopes to bring infrastructure development and employment to the constituency.
He has also developed a new app to mobilise party workers and social media. He has launched ‘Team Bhavya’ — an Android mobile application that tracks the social media activity of his campaign volunteers, rewarding them with points for every re-tweet, like, referral and Facebook post.
The top 10 users with the most points on the app are then invited to lunch at the Bishnoi family home every month.
"It is just a way to stay connected with party workers and has brought me closer to people associated with the family," he says.