2019 Lok Sabha polls: Women voters hold the key, says report
New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) Women are likely to play a decisive role in the upcoming general elections as their voting participation is likely to be higher than that of men in the 2019 polls, a Centrum report said on Monday.
According to the report, "Election 2019 - The Swing Factor", men still outnumber women in terms of registered voters, but the actual turnout of women voters is increasing at a rate faster than that of men, and that would make the difference this time.
"Their (women) rising participation at the ballot represents a remarkable trend; by 2019, it is plausible that women's turnout will meet - or even exceed - that of men," said the report empahsising "she matters".
"Rising turnout and the growing political assertiveness of Indian women are making their voices and policy preferences heard loudly across the country's political stage. As is evident, women voters are agents of change - they vote differently than men and can affect re-election prospects," it said.
It observed that although education and awareness are the important drivers of this trend, another major factor is peaceful polls as evident in women's turnout in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, where previous polls were marred by violence.
Data from the Election Commission showed that the average turnout in general elections increased significantly in 2014 and the gender gap in terms of voter turnout was also lowest in the last general elections since Independence.
"Women's rising turnout in elections and their growing political assertiveness will again be an important swing factor in the upcoming election," it said.
In the last few years, the concerns regarding women and their issues have gained importance and received attention from the political class, at least in slogans and speeches. Women's issues are a key in political manifestoes, though their effectiveness is debatable.
The current NDA government also has rolled out several schemes and legislative measures during its tenure including the The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2016, "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" scheme and "Sukanya Samriddhi Account".
These schemes, implementation and benefits actually availed by women as a result of these measures may play a role in forming the preference for women voters.
A significant yet unaccomplished demand for better political representation of women may also be a factor in the upcoming elections. The Women's Reservation Bill, which was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, still awaits clearance by the Lok Sabha, according to the report.
Another major factor for the 2019 elections, political campaign for which has started gaining momentum, would be the around 13 crore first-time voters.
The political spectrum including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress have set their eyes on these young voters and are speaking of their needs such as employment. More than 150 million of these first-time voters played an important role in giving additional seats to the BJP in 2014 elections.
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