Punjab may have been unfair to women in terms of its sex ratio, but the percentage of female voters was clearly higher than male voters in the just-concluded assembly elections in the state….writes Jaideep Sarin
With Punjab recording a high voter turnout of 77.4 percent, it was the female voters who were in the lead with 78.14 percent turnout. In comparison, only 76.69 per cent of male voters exercised their franchise.
Out of the 1,98,78,654 registered electors in Punjab, there were 1,05,03,108 male and 93,75,546 female voters.
In the February 4 elections to 117 assembly seats, while 80,54,558 men voted, 73,26,384 women cast their votes.
The overall voting percentage in the state was a shade lower than the 78.57 percent votes polled in the previous assembly elections in 2012.
However, the number of votes polled this time was much higher than the votes polled in 2012, as the number of voters in the state increased by nearly 22 lakh this time.
Thus, 1,53,80,942 voters cast their ballots this time compared to 1,38,92,749 (of 1,76,82,363 voters) last time.
In the 2012 assembly elections also, the percentage of women who voted, at 79.1 per cent, was slightly higher than the male voters at 78.09 per cent.
While women voters have been enthusiastically participating in the democratic process, major political parties have hardly given them fair representation this time around.
Among the 1,145 candidates in the fray for 117 assembly seats, only 81 were women — clearly indicating the patriarchal predominance among political parties.
Some of the parties, and leaders, even promised 33 per cent seats for women but came nowhere close to this when the tickets were allotted.
The Congress fielded only 11 women candidates.
The ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which contested 94 seats, gave tickets to only five women candidates. The Akali Dal’s alliance partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which contested 23 seats, fielded only two women. The alliance, thus, had only seven women in the fray.
The Aam Aadmi Party, the new entrant in Punjab’s political scene, fielded nine women among its 112.
Put together, the four main political parties, accounted for only eight percent of female candidates.
Also, there were only 32 women among the 304 independents.
Women constitute nearly 47 per cent of the over 12.98 electors in Punjab.
The fight for women’s representation in lawmaking has been raging since 1996 when the H.D. Deve Gowda government introduced the Women’s Reservation Bill, proposing to set aside 33 per cent of all seats in the Lok Sabha and in the state assemblies for women.
The Rajya Sabha passed the bill in 2010. It couldn’t sail through the Lok Sabha because there was no consensus among major political parties on the issue, especially related to caste-based reservations within this quota for women. The BJP-led NDA government, which has a clear majority in the Lok Sabha, has been silent on the issue.