Woman voters are expected to impact the outcome of the upcoming Assembly elections in Gujarat as their numbers have significantly increased. In the last five years, more women have been added to the electoral rolls as compared to men, and for the first time the gender ratio of women voters (as per 1,000 men voters) in Gujarat has crossed the sex ratio of general population of the state. This is significant for a state where the sex ratio stands at an unimpressive 918 as per the 2011 Census.
As the Election Commission gets down to finalising the electoral roll for the 2017 Assembly elections, preliminary numbers show that as compared to 1,81,43,660 women voters in the 2012 Assembly polls, more than 2,07,00,000 women are expected to cast their votes in this year’s Assembly elections.
Though the number of female voters is still less than 2,25,00,000 male voters, the gap between the two genders has narrowed. In 2012 Assembly elections, for every 1,000 male voters, there were only 910 female voters. This figure rose to 913 during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, and in 2017 it stands at 920.
“This is for the first time in recent history that the number of female voters has crossed the sex ratio of the state’s population,” Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat B B Swain told The Indian Express.
With the Election Commission stressing on enrolling women voters, 25,56,000 women have been enrolled in the voters’ list in the last five years. This is more than 23,85,000 men voters added in the same period.
“One of the most important targets of the Election Commission is to establish gender parity in the electoral rolls. The EC aims towards having a gender ratio as close as possible to the census figures and also encourages more women to exercise their franchise. This year, we had taken this up as a major challenge. Therefore, crossing the threshold of 918 (in the gender ratio) is a matter of significant achievement,” Swain added.
Though it could not be immediately confirmed which age group or districts have contributed to the maximum rise in the number of woman voters, but a glance at the outcome of the voters enrollment drive do shed some light on this trend.
During the month-long drive conducted in July 2017, over 9.36 lakh voters were added to the state’s electoral rolls. Of these, 5.4 lakh (or 58 per cent) were women and the rest were men.
The maximum number of women voters enrolled were from the districts of Surat (60,000), Ahmedabad (58,000), Rajkot (31,560), Vadodara (25,000), Banaskantha (23,900) and Bhavnagar (22,400).
The recent Assembly elections in Gujarat have seen increased participation of women. For instance, in 2007 Assembly polls, 57.02 per cent women voters cast their votes. This number jumped to 69.52 per cent in the 2012 Assembly polls.
In order to encourage greater participation of women this time, the Election Commission has decided to set up one “pink polling booth”, which will be completely manned by women personnel, in each of the 182 assembly constituencies.
Dr Gaurang Jani, a lecturer at Gujarat University’s sociology department, termed the rise in number of woman voters as “a very good development for Gujarat”. “The improvement in demographic indicators, especially the life expectancy of people living in the state, would be having a positive impact on the gender ratio of voters. The sex ratio of voters in the age group of 45-80 will surely be good. I say this, because the child sex ratio (0-6 years) of Gujarat is still at a dismal 886 (compared to 1,000 male children), and people living in the urban centres still do not prefer a girl child,” Jani said.