Hyderabad, April 14: Reference to women self-help groups, which was the buzz word in previous general elections, is conspicuous by its absence now.
The State has 1.25 crore members affiliated to a number of women self-help groups under DWCRA and they are a deciding factor in any election. In the last general elections in 2004, all political parties vied with one another in wooing these women groups. The Telugu Desam, which was in power then, went to the extent of claiming SHGs as its own on the strength of the Deepam scheme it had introduced for them. The TD mobilised SHGs at all its public meetings during 2004.
The women groups sided with the Congress and helped it to return to power in the State after a gap of 10 years. They were attracted by the promise of the Congress to lend loans through banks at three per cent interest per annum or 25 paise per Rs 100 per month. The Congress too show-cased these women groups at party public meetings.
However, this general election both the Congress and the Telugu Desam have conveniently left them out of their election campaigns. The Praja Rajyam led by film actor Chiranjeevi as also the Telangana Rashtra Samithi have kept these groups away from their election talk. Nowhere the DWCRA groups are seen actively canvassing or participating in election rallies. Even senior politicians including Chandrababu Naidu and Chief Minister Rajasekhar Reddy are talking about them in their poll speeches.
According to insiders in the Congress and the Telugu Desam, there was not much talk about the SHGs this time mainly because both these parties are confident of winning their support, and they have concentrated their energies to wooing neutral groups.
"The SHGs are siding with the Telugu Desam. The cash transfer scheme is primarily meant for these women groups, besides BPL families and middle classes. Like in earlier elections, this time too they are going to tilt the balance. The TD will stand to benefit from their verdict," senior TD leader U Venkateswarlu said.
The Congress leadership too seems to be confident of the full support from the SHGs. "We have introduced a novel scheme for these poor and hard-working women. Each member will contribute Re 1 a day to the pension scheme. The women will receive monthly pension from the Life Insurance Corporation of India," said APCC general secretary Abid Rasool Khan.
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