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|January 3, 1998||
BJP to make education till graduation free for girls
The Bharatiya Janata Party will make education for girls free till graduation if voted to power, its prime ministerial candidate Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced on Saturday.
In his inaugural address to the BJP Mahila Morcha's national convention, Vajpayee said it was a matter of shame that fifty years after Independence, the female literacy rate was only 40 per cent. Even if the country had registered a one per cent increase in the literacy rate every year after 1947, the figure would have been 90 per cent today, he added.
Departing from the prepared text of his address, Vajpayee declared that ''if given the chance to serve, the BJP will make education till BA free for girls''.
The former prime minister also reiterated his party's commitment to the Constitution amendment Bill on reservation of 33 per cent of Lok Sabha and state assembly seats for women. Claiming that it was the BJP which had originally mooted the idea, Vajpayee said the other parties had ''stolen'' the concept. "These parties's inability to get the Bill passed showed their lack of sincerity towards it," he added.
Vajpayee said that without reservation it would be difficult to secure increased representation of women in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies. ''While men pay lip service to the need to uplift women, when it comes to giving them party tickets, they try to wriggle out. Reservation is the only way to secure increased participation of women in politics,'' he added.
He also noted with concern the low turnout of women voters in elections. In most states, only 10 to 14 per cent of women voted during the last general election.''There are 300 million women voters. They form the largest vote bank. Yet decisions on their behalf are made by men. This will continue till women come forward and vote in great numbers. By doing this, they can change the destiny of this country,'' he declared.
Regretting the increasing incidence of rapes, molestation and other crimes against women, Vajpayee said he was personally in favour of the death sentence for rapists.
He also reiterated the BJP's commitment to a Uniform Civil Code to give greater rights to women. ''In the absence of a Uniform Civil Code, women are denied inheritance, divorce, maintenance and adoption laws that are free from gender biases,'' he said.
Later, in a chat with reporters, Vajpayee said even in the absence of reservation for women in the Lok Sabha, political parties could come to an informal understanding on giving more tickets to women candidates.
To a query on the Kashi and Mathura mosque-temple controversies, he said the BJP's stand on the issue was clear. ''These are not on the BJP's agenda. Full stop.''
Like his party colleague L K Advani in Madras, he too refused to comment on Sonia Gandhi's decision to campaign for the Congress in the general election.
A BJP government, he said, would be even handed in its approach to the minorities. ''They will be treated on an equal footing. There will be no discrimination and no favouritism,'' he added.
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