The women’s vote in Uttar Pradesh has clearly emerged as a crucial determining factor behind the BJP’s comfortable victory. Had it not been for them the BJP may not have won as many seats as it did. Lokniti’s post-poll survey data affirms that the BJP managed a huge vote lead of 13 percentage points over SP+ among women voters. Among men voters the BJP’s advantage over the SP alliance was only 5 percentage points (Table 1).
The BJP’s lead over the SP alliance was the sharpest amongst the youngest and the oldest women voters. Among women aged 18-25 years old it was 15 percentage points and among women aged 56 years and above it was even higher at 18 percentage points. Significantly, young male voters aged between 18-25 were as likely to vote for the SP as they were for the BJP unlike their women counterparts, underscoring the crucial role played by young women voters in the BJP’s victory.
In terms of caste and community, the sharpest gender gap with respect to the BJP can be seen among the upper caste community where women supported the BJP in even greater proportion than the men (90% as opposed to 83%). BJP also has bigger leads over SP amongst the rural women (gap of 16 percentage points) than urban (gap of 6 percentage points). The gender gap with respect to BJP was also the sharpest amongst the rich.
The Modi and Yogi governments came up with various women-centric schemes including the most talked about free ration scheme to attract the women electorates and it seem to have worked to some extent. Our survey suggests that BJP had greater lead over SP+ amongst women than men who considered food grain supply as a very important voting issue (18 percentage points vs. 6 percentage points) (Table 2).
On the law and order front, both men and women were equally likely to state that it had improved (seven in ten did). Even here, the BJP had greater lead over SP+ amongst women who thought so compared to the men (27 percentage points vs 22 percentage points).
There were two other interesting trends noticed in this election with respect to women. First, women’s turnout exceeded male turnout yet again and this seems to have happened largely because of the participation of rural women.
The post-poll survey data suggests that the turnout gap among rural and urban women was in double digits. Considering that the BJP had a huge advantage over the SP among rural women, this bump in rural participation of women is significant.
Second, not only did women turn out more, they also emerged as a more ‘independent voter’ compared to 2017. In Lokniti’s 2017 post-poll survey, 47% of women had said that they had taken someone’s advice before voting. In this election, only 32% did. It is also important to state that in the survey, women respondents were more likely to consider women candidates as being a very important voting consideration than men (47% vs 35%) and yet women weren’t attracted towards the Congress which gave 40% tickets to women candidates.
Vibha Attri is Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi & Sudhir Khare taught Political Science at D. A. V. College, Azamgarh, U.P.