In a tight fight every factor has the potential of contributing to a defeat or propelling one towards victory. Did women voters in the hill State make a difference in prodding a slight advantage for the Congress? In a race where the vote share difference between the Congress was less than one per cent, a marginal shift in the vote of one segment could change the entire complexion of the competition. Was gender the factor in a cold winter in this hill State?
In 2017, the post poll survey of Lokniti-CSDS indicated that both the BJP and the Congress had a marginally better record in garnering the vote of men as compared with women. This time around there was an interesting two percentage point difference — the Congress doing better among women and the BJP being ahead among men voters. While the BJP saw a five percentage point decline in votes among men, it saw a six percentage point decline among women. In the case of the Congress, there was a one percentage point increase in the share of men’s vote but a decisive four percentage point rise in its share of the women’s vote (Table 1).
In the analysis of economic factors elsewhere in this series, it has been pointed out that voters who were concerned about price rise were more likely to vote for the Congress than the BJP. This trend could well be mirrored in the marginally higher support for the Congress among women respondents.
In another article that reports on the Lokniti-CSDS poll in this special reporting, mention is made of the unhappiness of the voters with the health infrastructure and condition of the roads in the State. There was a high reporting of deterioration in these two areas or remaining as bad as before. This again could have been a factor that caused a higher level of dissatisfaction among women with the ruling BJP in the State and a shift to the Congress.
While the Congress polled two percentage points extra among women than among men, it was exactly the opposite in the case of the BJP. This means that while the Congress had a small gender advantage, the BJP had a proportionate disadvantage. The edge that the Congress was able to gain in the vote of women could well have tilted the balance in their favour.
(Sandeep Shastri is Vice-Chancellor at Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal & the National Co-ordinator of the Lokniti network)