Women take poll position, may beat men in voting in 2014 elections
Political parties, watch out! This summer, women are set to challenge the dominance of men in deciding the fate of candidates in the 2014 general elections.
Recent trends show that participation of the fairer sex in elections has been rising and they outnumbered men in voting in as many as 16 of the 20 states that went to polls since 2010.
It should not come as surprise if Indian women voters create history in the nine-phase polling by registering a higher voting percentage than men.
The gap in voting between men and women has been falling since 1962 and was lowest in 2009 polls. It came down from 16.7% to 4.4% and the sharpest dip was seen between 2004 and 2009 polls, Election Commission data shows.
Former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi is confident that women will emerge as a strong electoral force in the 2014 elections.
"An analysis by the Election Commission showed that in 16 of the 20 states that went to polls after 2010, women voting percentage was higher than men. In fact, women are no more hesitant to show their electoral preferences," he said.
Political parties will have to reckon women power as two states – Uttar Pradesh and Bihar – that could decide the fate of the next party in power at Centre had recorded higher women participation then men. The two states have 120 Lok Sabha constituencies in the 543-member lower house.
About 60.5% of women came out to vote in the 2012 assembly elections in UP, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, as compared to 58% men. In Bihar, which has 40 Lok Sabha constituencies, 54.5% women voted as compared to 51% men in the 2010 assembly polls.
But the exception in the long list of states favouring women voters is BJP leader Narendra Modi's home state of Gujarat. In the 2012 assembly polls in Gujarat, 69.50% women voters used their franchise as compared to about 73% men.
In the same league fall India's most developed states of Kerala, Karnataka and Assam.
However, the positive change would not have happened without the Election Commission's intervention.
In 2009, the EC conducted a nation-wide survey and found that women were reluctant to go for voting alone. The reason was they felt embarrassed at searching their names in the electoral rolls on the polling day at the booths set up by the political parties.
"We introduced the concept of a booth level officer to enroll voters and visit every home before the polling day to disburse slips with the polling booth number to help them to vote without seeking help of political activists. It has shown results in higher outcome of voters who were normally left out," said chief election commissioner VS Sampath.