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From Congress party's announcement on 40 percent reservation of seats for women in Uttar Pradesh, to the Aam Aadmi Party and Trinamool Congress announcing aids for women in Punjab and Goa respectively – political parties are wooing women voters to mobilise their votes, ahead of the five-state elections.
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa will go to polls, starting February 2022.
In an interview with The Quint, psephologist and co-director of Lokniti Sanjay Kumar reflects upon the voting trends of women and why political parties have a 'new-found' love for them.
‘More Women Casting Votes’
Starting from the Bihar Assembly elections during 2015, when the women voter outnumbered men, a clear trend of women turning up in large numbers to vote has been observed, explained Kumar.
Gradually, with more states started showing the pattern with women outnumbering men in at least 15-16 states.
“Realising that there is an increasing interest of women in politics, political parties have started focusing on the women voter because they are in sizeable number. This is not a community that constitutes 12, 8 or 10 percent of the total voter. Women constitute almost half of the total voter.”Sanjay Kumar
'Sizeable Women Candidates Winning Polls'
During the Lok Sabha elections of 2019, a large number of women candidates got elected on tickets given by Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal.
According to Kumar, if there are 100 women who have contested in an election, more women could get elected to the Assembly than Parliament when compared with 100 men.
“I think this is a myth that the winnability of women candidate is less compared to men. The winnability of women candidate is much higher compared to men. But there is a catch. One has to be careful in citing this figure. But it is true. If you look at the data, it is true that winnability of women is higher compared to men. Which is to say, if there are 100 women who have contested in election, more women get elected to the Assembly than Parliament if you compare it with 100 men."Sanjay Kumar, Co-Director, Lokniti
Speaking about Congress party's decision to field 40 percent women candidates, Kumar said:
"Even though the winnability of women candidates is more than that of men, just offering tickets to women does not make them more winnable. The vote shares of Congress in Uttar Pradesh during the 2017 Assembly elections, and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is just 6.5 percent, implying that the support base of Congress in the state is low."
In Kumar’s words, giving tickets to women without any support base is nothing but ‘icing' without the 'cake'.
'Women Deciding Whom to Vote For'
Even though the voting decisions of women are till date largely influenced and shaped by the male family members, the figures have improved over the decade.
Citing data based on survey estimates, during the elections of 2004 and 2009, roughly a quarter of women used to say that they took advice from the male members in the family, whereas only 1 percent agreed to have decided on their own.
"However, this number has now doubled from 24 percent to around 50 percent of women who are now taking independent voting decisions," Kumar said.
'Women Do Not Vote For Safety, Security'
According to Kumar, safety and security might not be the primary issue for a large number of women living in villages, contrary to perception.
"This is a concern only among the upper class and middle class women. It is not a big concern among the lower class and poorer women. But yes, when it comes to unemployment, when it comes to price rise, we noticed that there is some differential pattern. Unemployment, price rise, the day-to-day necessities, for these, the concern among women is much bigger, higher among women."
So, will women decide who wins 2022 state Assembly polls?
"If we see women shifting their vote in favour of one political party, and if that party wins election, we should be able to say that women vote mattered for this party. If that's not the case, we would have to conclude that women vote was important but it did not play a decisive role in victory of defeat of a political party," Kumar said.
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