Increase in women voter turnout in India

Do Akhilesh Yadav and Prakash Singh Badal owe their victory to the women?

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group

Do Akhilesh Yadav and Prakash Singh Badal owe their victory in 2012 Assembly polls to the women of their respective states? As political parties celebrated their success in the recently concluded elections, the increase in women voter turnout has emerged as the single defining trend across states that went to polls in 2012. Punjab and Uttarakhand actually witnessed a women voter turnout that beat the turnout by their male counterparts.

Profiling the Assembly elections results 2012 clearly brings out the rise in the percentage of women voter turnout. In the year 2007, the female voter turnout in Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections stood at 41.92 percent and the current figure of 2012 stands at 59.85 percent respectively.

Terming it as a success of women, Ranjana Kumari, director of Centre for Social Research (CSR) said, “India has several woman chief ministers and this fact has touched the conscience of women and mobilized them to come out and vote in large numbers.”

In order to make universal adult suffrage and effective women participation a complete reality, the Election Commission of India has in the recent past taken a few concrete steps to draw out women voters. These include at the macro level bringing up to date the eligible women voter data base and at the micro level appointing lady polling officers to attend the duty of identification of women electors. This apart the Commission this time initiated 2:1 women voter format to ensure they do not have to stay away long from their respective homes.

This seems to have done the trick with an overall improvement in their turnout. In 2007, the female voter turnout in Uttarakhand and Punjab stood at 59.45 percent and 75.47 percent respectively. The latest figure of 2012 for these two states stands at 68.84 percent and 79.10 percent, representing a rise of approximately 9.3 percent and 3.6 percent respectively.

“The entire voting procedure was earlier considered to be risky affairs as lot many incidents of violence were reported. But the scenario is changing now because of the tight security arrangements. This has actually helped in motivating the women to come out and vote in large numbers,” added Kumari at CSR.

The states of Punjab and Uttarakhand actually witnessed this time round higher women turnout than men reflecting a new appetite among women to be an active part of the democratic framework. The figure of female voter turnout in Punjab for the current year 2012 stood at 79.10 percent while that of male turnout was 78.09 percent. Uttarakhand too witnessed a similar trend with the female voter turnout pegged at 68.84 percent while that of male at 65.74 percent.

The female voter turnout improvement trend was earlier witnessed in West Bengal during 2011 Assembly polls when as against a 80.63 percent turnout in 2007, it jumped to 84.53 percent in 2011.

The improvement, however, does not go well with a section of the women activists. Madhu, head of training, at Jagori, a woman centric NGO said, “It is important to see whether the rise in the women voter turnout is an individual’s own choice or is a forced one. Most of the Indian women are still under the spell of their respective male counterparts.”