Millennium Post

Rise of women’s suffrage

Rise of women’s suffrage
This is a trend that politicians can’t afford to ignore. The share of woman in overall voters is increasingly sharply. What’s more, women are also voting in more numbers than before. In the four states that went to polls in the last one month – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi – participation of women voters has been much more than earlier elections. Analysts interpret the huge turnout in the latest state elections is because of increasing number of women voters.
Going by election data of the Election Commission of India, Rajasthan has reported an increase of 20 per cent in women voters in the last quarter century. In Delhi, in the last two decades, it has gone up by 20 per cent. In Chhattisgarh, 77 per cent of women voters voted while for men voters the figure is 76 per cent. Chhattisgarh’s 13 seats reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs) reported more women voters than men. In the 29 total seats reserved for STs, there are more women voters than men. That is probably why the BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, invoked women issues while campaigning in the tribal areas of the state. In Rajasthan, percentage of women voters was higher than men voters in 197 seats out of the 199 that went to polls. At the state level, while 75.51 per cent women voted, the figure for men was 74.91 per cent. This is despite the fact that ratio of man-woman voters has come down. The ratio of women voters in every 10 voters has come down from 9.1 in 2008 to 8.9.

This has been a trend since last two elections. Realising this, political parties now fine tune their campaign and policies to gain more women votes. Finance Minister P Chidambaram proposed to set up an exclusive public sector bank for women in the last Union Budget. This is already operational since last month. This is not all. The UPA government also proposed a special fund for women.

Under the gender budgeting provision, adopted since 2007, it allocated Rs 97,134 crore for women-related programmes. Usually conservative and careful in selection of words, Chidambaram used ‘woman’ 22 times in his short Budget speech in February 2013. The woman-centric Budget is seen
as a step by the UPA government that faces elections next year to appease the country’s women, still outraged over the gang rape and murder of a girl student in Delhi in December last year. But it has more to do with a new reality: emergence of women as a much sought-after vote bank. No political party, national or regional, can ignore this constituency with 384 million voters.

Down to Earth
Richard Mahapatra

Richard Mahapatra

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