Hindustan Times
Surendra P Gangan

Maharashtra has reported a whopping 4.41% lower response by female voters. This is much lower (3.75%) than the 2019 turnout of women voters

Even as some states and phases in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are recording a high turnout of women voters as compared to their male counterparts, Maharashtra has reported a whopping 4.41% lower response by female voters. This is much lower (3.75%) than the 2019 turnout of women voters. Experts and officers have attributed this to apathy among women towards politics and politicians, inflation, and other issues.

After all five phases of the LS polls, Maharashtra reported 61.33% voting, marginally up from 60.79% in 2019. The male voting percentage in the electoral roll of 92.9 million voters was 63.45% while the female voter turnout was 59.04%. The female voter turnout is low despite the sizable registration of 48.01% in the electoral rolls. In 2019, the women voter turnout was 58.83%, 3.75% lower than the male turnout of 62.58%

Interestingly, the female turnout in urban areas was lower compared to rural and remote areas. The second phase, with eight constituencies in the backward districts of Marathwada and Yavatmal, reported a higher turnout, with the difference between the male and female voters being just 1.8%. As against this, the fourth and fifth phases that had most of the urban constituencies such as Pune, Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region recorded a collective gap of 3.95% to 5.44%.

However, Mumbai constituencies have reported a narrow gap. In Mumbai South, 50.01% of registered women voters cast their votes as against 50.09% of men. In Mumbai North, the turnout ratio was 57.83%:56.12%, while in Mumbai North Central, the gap between male and female voter turnout was just 1.23%. In Thane, the ratio is 53.22%:50.78%. In Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, where the sex ratio is over-1000 women per 1000 men, the female voter turnout was 60.88% against the male voter turnout of 64.21%

In Beed, there was a significant difference in male and female voter turnout of 5.01% (73.28%:68.27%). Gadchiroli, a tribal-dominated constituency which reported the highest turnout in Maharashtra, has registered a relatively low difference of 2.39% (70.67% female voters against 73.06% male voters).

Baramati constituency, the only seat to witness a straight fight between two women candidates (Supriya Sule of NCP (SP) and Sunetra Pawar of NCP-Ajit Pawar faction), surprisingly registered the lowest female turnout. The difference between the male voters at 62.35% and female voters at 56.36% was 5.99%. “It could be because of confusion or anger among women voters owing to the political fight between two women from the same family,” said an official involved in election work. “Women do not like infighting within the family and in this case, maybe they felt it was avoidable.”

The turnout among transgenders has been reported as very poor despite special drives by the Election Commission over the last few years. Of the 5,720 transgenders registered as voters, only 1,450 or 25.35% voted in the polls. “In the first place, they faced a lot of problems in registration for want of documents,” said Deepak Sonawane of Bhakar Foundation. “As far as the turnout is concerned, it may be because of the large-scale relocation of TGs during this period. The Pune police issued a strict diktat recently, banning them from begging or visiting houses, resulting in most of them moving out of the city.”

Another officer who was part of the election process said that the drop in female voting percentage could have been out of apathy, anger against the incumbent dispensation or overall Maharashtra politics and its disturbing twists and turns in the last few years. “Women are more sensitive towards these issues and choose to remain silent,” he said.

Jagdeep Chhokar, founder member of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), said low female voter turnout was a general phenomenon. “Even the 2019 percentage was the same in Maharashtra at a time when a few states registered a larger turnout of women,” he said. “It cannot be seen in isolation, as it has more to do with the social set-up of women and their literacy levels in any state.”

Kiran Kulkarni, additional chief electoral officer, Maharashtra said there could be various factors responsible. It could be a conscious decision due to issues like water scarcity,” he said. “But we have not seen any apathy among women, and the figures are more than those in 2019. A proper scientific study could throw more light on the exact reasons.”

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