More power to women: Why parties in India are eyeing female votes

Increased female participation in electoral process and their awareness of issues force politicos to change tack

Published: 05th December 2021 09:24 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th December 2021 09:34 AM   |  A+A-

In states going to polls early next year, political parties are competing with one another in offering sops and schemes for the women.

In states going to polls early next year, political parties are competing with one another in offering sops and schemes for the women.

In states going to polls early next year, political parties are competing with one another in offering sops and schemes for the women.

While freebies in poll season are a given in India, the increased thrust on women-centric announcements and promises signals the rising power of the female voter.

In the five states where assembly elections are scheduled in early 2022 — Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur — parties seem to reckon that women voters may hold the key to their fate.  

Uttar Pradesh: Building the Congress party’s campaign for the 2022 assembly elections in the crucial heartland state, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has pledged to make womenfolk a “full-fledged partner in power”. She has announced that her party will give 40% tickets to women candidates and has also promised free travel in government buses to women, if voted to power.

Punjab: Eyeing to wrest power from the Congress in Punjab, AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal recently promised a monthly grant of Rs 1,000 for all women above 18 years of age while the ruling party has doled out schemes like free bus rides, 33% reservation in government jobs and raised monetary aid for marriage of girls belonging to the deprived classes.

Uttarakhand: Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently launched CM Ghasiyari Yojana under which the women in the hills, where they have to trek 2-10 km to gather cattle feed, will be provided with a kit to gather fodder. 

More power for women

In the politically important state of UP, a paradigm shift in voting patterns is being witnessed with women emerging as a decisive force capable of tilting results.

As per the Election Commission data, if last three assembly polls are taken into account, participation of women voters has recorded a jump of over 21%. 

Political commentator JP Shukla, however, says as the female voter becomes more assertive showing greater participation in the festival of democracy, “the political players will have to go beyond offering improvement in law and order situation, a few scholarship and pension schemes”.

The gap between turnout of male and female voters is showing a rising trend in Punjab, too. Political analyst Prof Ashutosh of Panjab University says, “The reason why more women vote nowadays is that they are becoming more aware of the issues facing them.

Also, they are more independent now as against the time when they chose not to exercise their franchise or voted as per the wish of the men of the house.

The other reason could be that youth are going outside for livelihood while womenfolk are left behind.”

The AAP, which has been trying to expand its national footprint, is expected to announce welfare schemes for women in Goa, too, where also the gap between poll participation of men and women has increased from less than one percentage in 2007 to over 5.5% in 2012 and 2017. 

Trend in hills states

In Uttarakhand, the gap between male and female voting percentages has gone up from 0.5 in 2007 to 7.06 in the last elections.

“Uttarakhand is known for women leading movements and being aware than men in many aspects. Maybe, this is the same effect,” surmises social activist Tanuja Joshi. 

In Manipur, the number of women voters has always been higher than the men and their poll participation is also more. Perhaps that’s why no race has been seen here to woo the women electorate. 

Ningombam Bupenda Meitei, who is an advocate and former academic, said, “The higher voting percentage is a sign of mature involvement in democratic process.” 

(Reporting by Namita Bajpai in Lucknow, Harpreet Bajwa in Chandigarh, Vineet Upadhyay in Dehradun, Sudhir Suryawanshi in Mumbai and Prasanta Mazumdar in Guwahati)


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