Uses social issue campaign to consolidate her position in state politics
To start with, she would take out a three-day padyatra (foot march) next month with 500 girls. The march would start from Naigaon in Satara district on August 25 and would conclude at the birth place of Savitribai Phule in Pune on August 28, she said.
Her campaign comes on the heels of rising incidents of female infanticide and a rapidly falling sex ratio in the state, ruled by the Congress-NCP alliance.
According to Sule, “Preventing female foeticide has not been on a priority list of any political party. The slew of schemes launched by the state and central governments for the empowerment of women have not succeeded in improving the falling sex ratio. It is a matter of concern that while India has been able to maintain high economic growth, it could not achieve an equal male-female ratio.”
Sule, being projected by a section of the NCP as a chief ministerial candidate, said she had sought cooperation of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, her cousin and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister R R Patil, Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil, Public Health Minister Suresh Shetty and Higher Education Minister Rajesh Tope during her campaign.
Political watchers say the move is a part of the NCP strategy’s to divert attention from issues that could otherwise hurt the party. Sule, her father Sharad Pawar, and cousin Ajit, have been targeted by the Opposition and a section of the ruling Congress party for their alleged involvement in various land deals in the state since last year.
Further, the names of Sule, her husband Sadanand Sule and Sharad Pawar have cropped up in another controversy over their alleged involvement in the Indian Premier League Cricket bidding process.
The state government had recently introduced 50 per cent reservation for women in civic bodies and local self-governments, the elections for which are slated during November and February next year, respectively. Sule has also been associated with an all-party campaign against malnutrition.
Since 1961, the female population had been falling both in Maharashtra and at the national level, Sule said. In 1962, Maharashtra had 936 females per 1,000 males. This ratio worsened further in 2001 (922:1,000) and in 2011 (883:1,000). The low sex ratio is not restricted to slums and low-income category population only but also prevalent among high-income groups.
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