Female voters outperform male counterparts in Rajasthan

Sunny Sebastian

Interesting development given the sex ratio of 906 females per 1,000 males

Areas with high female literacy rate stood witness to the trend

Female candidates for some seats an incentive for the women to vote

JAIPUR: Women voters outnumbered their male counterparts in more than two dozen constituencies in the Rajasthan Assembly elections held on Thursday. Considering the State’s adverse male-female ratio (1,000 males against 909 females) and the lesser number of female voters in the electoral rolls here, this development has aroused the curiosity of political observers and sociologists.

Rajasthan has a population-voter ratio of 1,000:551 and male-female voter ratio of 1,000:906 (against 19,000,430 male voters, there are 17,213,900 female voters). Perhaps there is more to the upsurge in woman power in the State though generally it is attributed to the charisma of Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.

Ms. Raje is considered popular among women as they attend her rallies in large numbers, but curiously enough the polling by women voters in her constituency Jhalrapatan has been less than that of men (against 74 per cent polling by men, only 62.68 per cent women).

“Women voting more than men in some of these constituencies cannot be due to Ms. Raje’s popularity. There are multiple reasons for the evolution of women in Rajasthan and I would mention the National Rural Employment Guarantee programme as one of them,” said Magsaysay Award winner Aruna Roy when asked to comment. “Ms. Raje has no influence on rural women,” she asserted.

There is a geographical pattern in the female voters outperforming their male counterparts. The trend is noticed in the three Shekhawati districts of Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu, where the female literacy rate is the highest in the State. The pattern is missing in the constituencies in the adjoining, more tradition-bound, Bikaner.

Going further north, it is seen in some constituencies in Sriganganagar, a district where the Human Development Index of women is high.

In some of the constituencies, the presence of one or more woman/women happened to be an additional incentive for the womenfolk to vote, but not in every place, as there are many constituencies with women candidates where men did the higher polling. Moreover, the urban centres, including Jaipur and Jodhpur, had lesser polling by women irrespective of the presence of woman candidate — as in Hawa Mahal (Jaipur), where BJP’s Manju Sharma, daughter of former BJP State president Bhanwarlal Sharma, is the candidate.

Women voters outnumbered men in Sikar district’s Srimadhopur, Neem Ka Thana, Khandela, Datta Ramgarh, Sikar, Dhod, Lacchmangarh, and Fatehpur and in Jhunjhunu district’s Khetri, Udaipurvati, Nawalgarh and Mandawa. In Churu district’s Rattangarh, Sujangarh, Churu, Sardarshahar, Tara Nagar and Sadulpur, women’s votes would determine the fate of candidates — who are mostly men.

Mandawa in Jhunjhunu is a special case in which two women — Rajasthan Assembly Speaker Sumitra Singh of the BJP and Rita Choudhary of the Congress — were contesting. Ms. Singh is a veteran of many electoral battles and Ms. Choudhary is a first-timer, fighting on the legacy of her father, former Leader of the Opposition Ramnarain Choudhary. The difference between the male and female polling here is a whopping 12 per cent (70.28 per cent polling by women).

In neighbouring Nawalgarh, where the Congress candidate is Pratibha Singh, a sitting MLA, 69.8 per cent of women cast their votes against a polling of 60.87 per cent by men. However, in Bikaner East where Sidhi Kumari, a member of the Bikaner royal family, is trying her luck in the elections for the first time on BJP ticket, only 60.83 per cent women voted against 63.84 per cent men.

Another royal of the BJP, Kirti Kumari, too did not fare well with the fairer sex voters at Mandalgarh in Bhilwara district. Here 77.45 per cent men and 71.1 per cent women voted.

At Bhadra in Hanumangarh district, 77.03 per cent women cast their votes against 75.98 per cent men. In Sangaria, where the Congress candidate is the party’s former spokesperson Param Navdeep Singh, 83.6 per cent women voted. The men’s tally was 81.93 per cent.

The women in constituencies reserved for Scheduled Tribes were found to be ahead of their men in exercising their franchise though this was not the case with women in constituencies reserved for Scheduled Castes. In the tribal constituency of Garhi in Banswara and Aspur in Dungarpur, women voters outnumbered men. In Garhi, the Congress has fielded a woman, Kanta Garasia.

In South Rajasthan, the tribes mostly belong to the Bheel-Meena community and the trend is not uniform for all the tribal seats elsewhere in Rajasthan. In the Saharia tribe-dominated Kishangarh, more men (67.1 per cent) voted than women (59.74).

“It is the articulation of the marginalised. In the past five years the poor, especially those in the rural areas, were the worst sufferers,” says human rights activist Kavita Srivastava. “Though only a few women were given a chance to fight the elections this time by both the Congress and the BJP, women in many places overwhelmingly joined the democratic process of elections to give vent to their feelings. The women were extremely concerned about a few issues including availability of drinking water,” she said.

Ms. Srivastava also attributed the reservation for woman representatives in the panchayati raj institutions as another major reason for their greater participation in the Assembly elections now.