Women Voters May Outnumber Men This Time, But Will This Translate to Real Power?
The turnout of the female voters in 2014 was about 65 per cent—the highest so far going by the figures of the Election Commission since 1967.
Illustration by Mir Suhail (News18)
Trinamool Congress will be fielding 41 per cent of female candidates in the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Earlier, the Biju Janta Dal (BJD), headed by Naveen Patnaik, announced to give 33 per cent reservation to the female candidates from its party in the upcoming polls. The move could be a stepping stone for women in Indian politics, who for long have not been given their due space in active politics.
While politicians like Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and now Priyanka Gandhi Vadra have emerged to be big names in the Indian politics, public acceptance of female leadership from grassroots and women participation in polls still remain a concern.
Since 1962, the share of total female voters in the country, a News18.com analysis shows, varied from 47 per cent to 48 per cent of the total eligible voters. However, the number of female voters who have exercised their right to adult suffrage has been less than that of the male voters.
For example, the turnout of the female voters in 2014 was about 65 per cent—the highest so far going by the figures of the Election Commission since 1967. In comparison, the turnout of male voters in 2014 was 67 per cent—two per cent more than that of the female voters.
While Jammu and Kashmir had the lowest turnout among women at 48 per cent, Nagaland and Lakshadweep fared the best with 88 per cent of voter participation each.
In their recently released book, The Verdict, authors Prannoy Roy and Dorab Sopariwala have documented sharp rise of the women voters. The authors also predicted that this year, the women voter turnout may surpass that of men, going by the turnout in the 2017 and 2018 assembly elections.
As per Carnegie Endowment, the increasing women participation in the polls could be due to multiple factors: women’s will to exercise a decision making role and increasing literacy among them, to name a few. Starting from as small as having separate queues for the women at the polling booths to having separate ‘pink’ booths or women-only polling booths, the Election Commission has been trying all ways possible to improve the women turnout.
Despite a 65 per cent turnout in 2014, a large share of female voters, however, are still not exercising their democratic right. As per the 2011 Census, India has approximately 943 females for every 1,000 males. However, as per 2019 total voters’ list accessed by News18.com, there are still about 925 females for every 1,000 males.
The story remains the same when it comes to women representation in parliament.
Currently, women have been elected from 66 of the total 524 seats in the Lok Sabha. Most of them are from the Bharatiya Janta Party (32).
An analysis of all the general elections demonstrates that Congress had fielded most women from 1952 to 1967. In those three Lok Sabha elections, the Congress fielded 27, 33 and 37 women candidates, respectively.
In the subsequent years, the role was taken over by the independent candidates. In fact, in 1984-85, 1991-92, 1996, 2004, 2009 and 2014 elections, there were more independent women candidates than the total fielded by national parties.
However, Independent women candidates have not succeeded in getting public acceptance most of the times. Only in 1967, most number of independent women candidates—two—were elected to power out of 10 contested.
But there is a caveat. With the rise of women participation in the electoral process, the winning percentage has been constantly decreasing—from 48.89 per cent in 1962 to 9.13 per cent in 2014. Surprisingly, the women representation has become only better—from 4.91 per cent in 1952 to the current 11 per cent.
Notably, the proportion of women fielded by national parties is also increasing, along with an increase in the women representation in Parliament. Congress has been fielding more women as compared to other national and state parties. In fact, with the exception of 2009, the party has constantly fielded more women candidates than the BJP. Congress gained immense popularity with its Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao movement.
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