Elections 2024: Women Are Emerging As 'Kingmakers' And Political Parties Are Taking Note

Women are turning out in higher numbers to cast votes in Indian elections. What are its implications?

<div class="paragraphs"><p>(Source: Freepik) </p></div>
(Source: Freepik)

[My persuasion, Can build a nation...

Who run the world? Girls! Who run the world? Girls!]

Elections in India might not be what Beyoncé had in mind when the pop icon belted out her now iconic song. But women are turning out in higher numbers to cast votes—be it in the general election, assembly polls or others, and political parties are taking note.

For the first time, voter turnout reversed in the 2019 general election, with females turning out in larger numbers to cast their ballots than males.

In the Lok Sabha elections that year, nearly 67.2% of eligible female voters cast their votes, as compared with 67% male voters.

By past trends, female voter turnout can be expected to be reasonably high in the 2024 general elections as well, said psephologist Sanjay Kumar, professor at CSDS Delhi. There is no reason to suggest a reversal, he said.

In 2024, total voter turnout at the current rate of polling could touch 68 crore, of which women voters could be at 33 crore, or about 49% of the total voter turnout, according to the economics research department at the State Bank of India. In 2029, total voter turnout at the current rate of polling could touch 73 crore, of which women voters at 37 crore could be outstripping registered men voters at 36 crore, the note estimates.

A research note by UBS, too, explained that given current demographics, about 97 crore people are 18 years old or above, of which almost half are women.

Assuming the voter turnout ratio of males and females remain the same as in the 2019 election, there will be about 31.7 crore women voters and 34 crore men voters in the 2024 election.

In a handful of states, the trend has already seen a reversal.

In Kerala, for instance, female voters made up 51.4% of the total, while in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Tamil Nadu, and several states in the north-east, women comprise more than half the total electors.

The female voter bank has markedly seen a rise in the past 15-20 years, said political analyst Shankkar Aiyar. For political parties, in the habit of so far having cajoled the male vote bank, "the invisible has become visible", said Aiyar.

The female voter base saw double-digit growth over the past two general elections. From 1971 up to 2019, there has been an increase of 235.7%, according to a handbook on the 2019 general elections by the ECI.

Parties Are Taking Note

Even ahead of the general elections, efforts by political parties to woo voters can be seen in assembly elections to state budgets.

For instance, in Gujarat's latest budget for FY25, the state government announced the Namo Laxmi, Namo Saraswati and Namo Shri schemes to provide scholarships and financial assistance to females. Assam, too, announced a one-time incentive for girl students to pursue higher education, along with schemes for female self-help groups.

The Delhi state government announced a cash transfer to every adult woman, except those filing income tax or covered under existing pension schemes.

During the 2023 state elections, while the Bharatiya Janata Party manifesto for Madhya Pradesh promised Rs 2 lakh to the girl child from birth till the age of 21, in Chhattisgarh, the party promised Rs 12,000 to every married woman per year.

It seems the women-centric polices have taken centre stage, especially since 2023, the research note by UBS said. The growing inclination of political parties to offer targeted welfare benefits to women—cash support, free bus travel, cooking gas subsidies, women-centric legislation, among others—is closely linked to the rising percentage of women participating in the electoral process over the years, the note said.

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