In a clear sign that the Congress will be targeting the support of women in the polls, vice-president Rahul Gandhi reached out to women voters at an all-women rally in Tumkur and tried to draw a parallel between the subjugation of women in the country with his own attempt to counter a bully at a boarding school.
The Congress leader also made a subtle reference to the BJP and its PM nominee Narendra Modi saying that the party does not respect women. “Their ideological ‘sangathan’ has no place for women. Their leader, what he says and what he does all of you know about it.
I am not going to elaborate,” he said at the rally. He expressed hope that the 33 per cent reservation Bill for women would be passed in Parliament during the current and final session under the UPA watch. However, the Congress leader also gave his own rhetoric an escape clause stating that the Congress list of candidates for the Lok Sabha polls would not be able to reflect the party’s efforts to empower women but would be male dominated like the rest of society.
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“India cannot be a superpower until we empower women. Unless we empower nearly 50 per cent of our population we will always continue to remain on the way to being a superpower. States where women are empowered are progressing fast,” he said.
“We want to give women equal opportunity. In panchayats, in the Assembly, in Parliament, more women should be visible,” he said. “We want to use your strength in the progress of this country. We want to open doors for women, doors of schools, hospitals. Without you there is no progress,” he said.
The Congress has during its tenure introduced legislation against sexual harassment and rape, he said.
Narrating his own trauma as a 12-year old child who was bullied by a bigger boy at boarding school he drew a parallel to the situation of women across India.
“Women constantly face harassment at home or at work, they feel insecure to travel by public transport or to roam around freely in public places from fear of being attacked or victimized by those involved in moral policing,’’ the Congress vice-president said. He said the Congress would endeavour to create a fearless society for women.