KENDRAPARA: Low profile but with a base spread wide across the rural landscape, the women’s self-help groups (SHGs) have emerged as a potential game-changer in the elections in Kendrapara.“The fact that 33 per cent of Lok Sabha seats is reserved for women by BJD has increased the importance of SHGs. This is evident in all villages across the district,” said Maa Durga SHG secretary Suchitra Jena of Iswarpur village.
She said women SHG members are being tapped by political parties and their candidates. “There is hardly a village which does not have an SHG. Each SHG comprises 20 members,” Suchitra said. Maa Mangala SHG president Snehalata Das of Baro village said candidates supported by SHGs have a good chance of getting elected to Lok Sabha and Assembly despite the use of money and liquor by powerful opponents. A simple calculation shows how the support of the SHGs can be decisive in the upcoming elections, she explains.
“A candidate for an Assembly seat needs around one lakh votes to get elected. In Kendrapara Assembly segment, around 30,000 SHG members in 2,500 villages and their family members command over half the votes required by a candidate to win,” Snehalata said, adding that SHGs have extended support to candidates who have shown integrity and interest in public service.
She said her SHG, which specialises in products made of golden grass, locally known as ‘Kaincha’, was formed with 15 women members in 2008. “Now around 300 women of Baro and its nearby areas eke out their livelihood by making golden grass craft items. Banks also provide us loans,” Snehalata said, adding that the members of her SHG will vote in favour of BJD in the polls.
Senior BJD leader and chairman of Kendrapara Municipality Dhiren Sahoo said the SHG movement has gained significance over the years as the Government has implemented several schemes through them. “The Government, as the biggest funding agency of SHGs, has the greatest influence on them and the party is likely to get their support,” he said.
District Congress president Chinmaya Beura said a large number of women will vote for Congress as law and order situation in the State has worsened with crimes against women going up under BJD rule.BJP’s district unit president Duryodhan Sahoo said his party has provided LPG connections to a large number of women and this will work in favour of the saffron party in the polls.