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Modi reaches out on Women’s Day, popularise government initiatives

Prime Minister Narendra Modi carried out a larger outreach program on International Women’s Day, sharing tweets, videos of his vision for women-led development and government initiatives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the swearing-in ceremony of Tripura legislative assembly at Assam Rifles ground in Agartala, on March 9, 2018.

From veteran Lata Mangeshkar to the young Meghalaya politician Agatha Sangma, from Indian women cricket team captain Mithali Raj to Telangana Rashtriya Samiti MP Kavitha Rao, and from wrestlers Vignesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik to the Punjab politician Navjot Kaur, 400 influential women leaders across different spheres of Indian public life received a letter this week.

It was from an unusual source — Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The letters were a part of Modi’s larger outreach on International Women’ Day. On Thursday, Modi began with a set of tweets, sharing videos of his vision for women-led development and the government’s initiatives for women. He travelled to Rajasthan to launch the National Nutrition Mission (NNM) and expand the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao schemes. He also spoke to Anganwadi workers on the phone. And he ended by retweeting posts with the hashtag #SheInspiresme.

In the letter to the influential women leaders across different spheres, Modi mentioned that the government had initiated the NNM to ‘reduce under-nutrition, anaemia.. and low birth weight’. He then placed it in the context of ‘comprehensive’ approach of the government to bring a change in the quality lives of women.

Modi is understood to have specifically mentioned the government’s Ujjwala (cooking gas for the poor, Jan Dhan (no-frills bank accounts) and Mudra (loans for entrepreneurs) schemes; the Maternity Bill; and Ayushman Bharat Yojana (the universal health insurance scheme). He also urged them to extend their support to both the nutrition and the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao initiatives.

Besides the letters to women leaders, Modi also sent out 1500 letters to Chief Ministers, Principal Secretaries, Chief Secretaries and District Magistrates. He acknowledged their work in making Beti Bachao Beti Padhao a success and urged them to intensify work on the scheme.

In the run up to the 2019 elections, analysts see it as reinforcing Modi’s attempts to bolster his support base.

Manisha Priyam, a political scientist, suggests this as a part of Modi’s effort to build a constituency of women, particularly among the emerging poor, on a scale that has not been seen before. “Modi is not the original inventor of the women’s votebank, but his ability to take it to an entirely different scale is unprecedented. He is focused on expanding constituencies, reaching out to newer social groups.”

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