What would be the role of women in the upcoming state assembly elections in five states? Women comprise half of India’s population and they play a crucial role in defining the outcome of the elections. Parties and politicians pay special attention to issues concerning women. Issues such as access to education for the girl child, health and sanitation for women, protection of women, etc. get space in the speeches of political leaders and in the manifesto of political parties. Security of women was one of the main issues in 2014 general elections. BJP PM Candidate, Narendra Modi in his election rallies repeatedly asked voters, “Are your sisters and daughters safe- do you not worry till they get home?” Women empowerment and women security are one of the core electoral agendas. No party can afford to neglect women. Along with caste, there is also a new class of voters emerging throughout the entire country that class is of women. Voters from this class would be a deciding factor in 2019 General elections as well as in the upcoming state assembly elections.
In recent times, it has been seen that women participation in electoral process has increased a lot. In 2014 general elections, women voters outnumbered men voters in 16 of the 35 states/union territories. The share of women contestant also had registered a nominal increase; it went up to 8 percent from 7 per cent. So far it was the highest in all the elections.
In the upcoming celebration of democracy, half to the country’s population that is women are going to enthusiastically participate. The dates of the polls have been already announced. Except Chhattisgarh, elections in all other states will take place in single phase. Election results will be announced on 11 December. Women voters will be an important factor in deciding- Who will win the game of thrones? Let us look at state wise analysis of women voters.
Rajasthan– According to election commission, in the last state assembly election, women voters casted more votes than male voters. Statistics show that during the last 30 years there is 50% increase in the number of women voters. As compared to 2008 assembly elections, Rajasthan registered an increase of 10 % in 2013 state assembly elections. According to the Down To Earth report, percentage of women voters in the state was higher than that of men in 197 seats out of the 200 that went to polls.
Given the voting records and active participation of women in the last assembly elections, it is hopeful to expect that number of women voting and participating in the upcoming state elections will only show increase. The BJP is especially relying on these women voters. Under Bhamashah Yojana, the ruling state government has taken significant steps to improve the condition of women.
For more details: Bhamashah Yojana is proof of how CM Raje modernized Rajasthan.
Madhya Pradesh– The number of total voters in the state is 5.03 crores. Total number of women voters are 2.4 crore and men voters are 2.6 core. The state has 1.3 crore youth voters.
According to the election commission, the number of male voters has increased by 3.06 lacs. At the same time the number of women voters has increased by 5.88 lacs.
According to a Times of India report, the BJP is planning to field at least 25 percent women candidates in Madhya Pradesh for the 230 seats. According to the BJP state women wing chief, the party had fielded 28 women candidates out of which 22 were elected to the state legislature, which is 78% against 70% of the 143 male winners.
Chhattisgarh– According to state election commission, there are around 1 crore 82 lakh voters in the state. The number of male voters is around 92 lakh 45 thousand, and the number of female voters is around 92 lakh 32 thousand.
There are many constituencies in the state where women have significant influence. Women voters will decide the fate of candidates on many assembly seats. According to the Down to Earth report, in 2013 Chhattisgarh state assembly elections, 77 per cent of the women voters voted in comparison to 76 per cent of men. Chhattisgarh’s 13 seats reserved for scheduled tribes also reported more turnout of women voters than the men.
Telangana– The voter list is still not out. There are allegations of about 70 lakh discrepancies in the electoral roll in Telangana. The Supreme Court, after hearing the Telangana Voters list issue, has ordered the petitioner to approach to the High Court. The apex court has asked the High Court to give prominence to the matter and give immediate decision on the issue of revision of voter list.
The Congress party has also filed the petition in the Supreme Court about the alleged discrepancies in voters’ list of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Mizoram– in North east states, percentage of women voters is normally higher than men voter, Mizoram being no exception. Mizoram is considered as the state where women power is dominant. This is the only state where the number of female voters is higher than that of men.
According to the voter list of the year 2013, the total number of voters in the state is 6,86,305. Out of these, the number of women voters is 3,49,506 and the number of male voters is 3,36,799.
However, despite women voters more in numbers there is no representation of women in its state assembly.
Women working for political rights in Mizoram feel discriminated over the fact that Mizo society still gives prominence to men only and women are not allowed to take part in law-making process.
The Congress is ruling the state since almost last five years and it becomes pertinent to ask what they have done in order to ensure political rights to women of Mizoram.
So, there is no denying that there is an unprecedented increase in political participation by women. This increase is mainly because of women centric development schemes and increase in participation of women at panchayat levels which ultimately led to increase of more and more participation of women in electoral process. It has also led to diminishing of gender gap between men and women voter turnout to a large extent.
It would be interesting to see which party would be able to attract the maximum number of women voters- BJP or the Congress. Modi government, since its arrival, has given prominence to women. The Modi cabinet is full with women faces with prominent portfolios. In Modi cabinet, there are total 8 women cabinet ministers heading some of the most powerful ministries. Nirmala Sitharaman is defence minister, Smriti Irani is textile minister (also served as I&B and HRD minister), Sushma Swaraj is foreign minister, Anupriya Patel is Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Uma Bharti is Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation (also served as Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation until 2017), Harsimrat Kaur Badal is Minister of Food Processing Industries, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti is Minister of State for Food Processing Industries. The presence at the top level of decision making shows how much committed Modi government is for the women empowerment.
For the appointment of governors of the state, the BJP referred names of several women to the President who later on appointed them as the governor of different states. Former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel is the current Governor of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Mridula Sinha took oath as the Governor of Goa on August 31, 2014. Draupadi Murmu took the charge of Governor of Jharkhand on May 18, 2015. Najma Heptulla is the current Governor of Manipur. Baby Rani Maurya was sworn-in as the Governor of Uttarakhand on August 21, 2018, Kiran Bedi is the current Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.
Not just giving important cabinet posts and playing crucial role in the appointment of so many women as the Governor of the state, the BJP has launched many pro-women schemes for the welfare and empowerment of the women. Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao arguably one of the most successful social campaigns aimed at eradication of female foeticide. Its main objective also includes ensuring survival & protection of the girl child and also to ensure education for the girl child. This scheme is one of the reasons behind the improved sex ratio in Haryana. The Modi government has taken many other important initiatives for the empowerment of women. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) aims to safeguard the health of women & children by providing them with a clean cooking fuel – LPG, so that they don’t have to compromise their health in smoky kitchens or wander in unsafe areas collecting firewood. Under the scheme, so far government has distributed over 5 crore LPG connections covering 713 districts of the country.
MUDRA scheme also has lots of women as beneficiaries. The scheme is dedicated to provide easy loan of upto one million rupees to entrepreneurs. PM Modi said, “Since its launch in 2015, over 90 million loans worth 4.28 trillion rupees have been sanctioned. Of these, more than 70 million loans have been sanctioned to women entrepreneurs.” At present, women are the holders of 76% of Mudra loan accounts.
Under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana over 315 million bank accounts have been opened. Of these, 53 per cent accounts are of women. It means over crores of women have been brought into formal financial system. It indicates greater financial inclusion of womenfolks. According to World Bank reports, in 2014 chances of men having bank accounts was 20 percentage points more likely than women. By 2017, the gap was drastically down to a mere 6 percentage points. This is a huge boost to women empowerment.
The incumbent government has done a lot for women and poor people and it is one of the reasons behind its success in one after another state elections. In 2014 general election, the BJP registered significant increase in almost every social category. And, the BJP has done a lot to improve the social conditions of almost all the sections of society by launching schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya, Atal Pension Yojana, Ujala scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana and Mission Indradhanush. People on the lower spectrum of social strata and women have benefited a lot from these schemes.
The Modi government understands the importance of women voters that’s why it launched so many women centric schemes and also increased gender budget allocation. The Gender Budget allocation for FY 2018-19 is Rs 121,961 crore. According to the Hindustan Times report, this is an increase from Rs 113,311 crore (Rs 117,222 crore revised estimate) in 2017-18, as a percentage of total expenditure it continues to be in the range of 5%.
If the political parties want to win elections then they cannot afford to ignore women. Times have changed, men in power should also change their mentality and encourage more and more women to come out and vote and political parties should also give more tickets to women candidates. India lags behind women representation in the Parliament when compared to its neighboring country. Women representation in Parliament is just 11%. This needs to be increased and hopefully we might witness a drastic increase in women representation in parliament in the 17th Lok Sabha.
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