NaMo Bharathi, a group which came into being four months ago in Bangalore, is doing its bit for Narendra Modi. According to this group of 100 professionals, women have always been effective agents of change.
The group comprises middle class and affluent women from all walks of life --- students, professionals, management graduates, activists, teachers and homemakers.
They hail from across the country, but not everyone is convinced they are non-partisan (see box).
Rasita, a research scholar who has set aside her thesis on cyber security to campaign, is impressed by Modi’s ‘development record’ in Gujarat.
She says, “I have lived in Ahmedabad for three years. Modi has proved his mettle in his three terms as chief minister.”
Brushing aside the criticism of rampant malnutrition in Gujarat, she says, “It has been hyped by his opponents. The problem is prevalent in most states of India, including Karnataka, because of our dietary habits.”
NaMo Bharathi’s activities include door-to -door campaigning, organising talks and meets, registering new voters and motivating women.
“Though our efforts are small, we no longer hold back because we are women. We have gained political confidence,” a representative of the group said.
Managing responsibilities at work and home, they participate collectively or individually on week days and during weekends. They plan to carry forward their collective effort even after the elections.
Swati Sharma, an IT consultant who has dedicated two days in a week for this effort, feels happy with the response.
“We are spreading awareness among people who are not interested in politics. In association with BJP workers, we have been visiting malls, street corners, buildings, and slums,” she adds.
Poonam Kaul, working in an MNC, is also an avid Modi admirer.
“If you look at his track record in the last 12 years, there has been no communal riots, and my own colleagues from the minorities say that they are surprised at the hate campaign being carried out against Modi. Even his wife who is estranged, is supporting him, which is great,” she says.
Active on the social media, Rekha Rao, an advertising consultant, has been part of this group since its inception.
“A lot of disinterested voters who are educated have been brought into the fold as the atmosphere in the country has forced them to take interest and bring about a much needed change,” she said.
A mathematics teacher, Janakiratnam, has made time to be part of this group and sometimes works late into the night to complete her professional assignments.
“Looking at the present status of the country, I feel Modi is the right person. It is utter rubbish that he is divisive.”
They’re just a front for the BJP, and some get paid, says JD(S)
The Congress is supported by a similar group, but it is not a women-only group. The KPCC has set up what it calls a professional cell, comprising 250 volunteers who campaign for the party offline and online. They are professionals who hold corporate jobs. This time, they are doing election work from Bangalore and Chikmagalur. “They take time off from their jobs and campaign for the Congress,” said Husain, speaking on behalf of the party. But it is not just campaigning. They also go on social media and talk about the policies and achievements of the Congress. Ramesh Babu, spokesperson for the JD(S), is convinced NaMo Bharathi is a BJP front. “The party has 35 organisations doing all kinds of work behind the scenes,” he said. While the communist parties enjoy the support of dedicated cadres who volunteer their services, the BJP pays many of those who work for it, he said.
“Educated people are willing to listen to us when we go from door to door, Janakiratnam says and adds, “Even at traffic signals, the response has been good as people are desperate for a change.”
A few in the group have been interacting with the BJP candidates.
Meenakshi Iyer, a social activist, says they go as a group, discuss ideas and campaign in the morning and late evening in all three Lok Sabha seats.
“We are bringing out a weekly paper called Sanchali focusing on our interaction with the candidates. People think twice of shutting their doors on us when we go canvassing wearing NaMo T-shirts and saffron dupattas,” she signs off.