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Madhya Pradesh Enigma: Surge in Women Voter Turnout, Yet Decline in Chief Minister and Former CM’s Strongholds

Women-centric promises propel 2% surge in female votes in MP. Amid BJP-Congress showdown, Ladli Behna and Nari Samman Yojana reshape political landscape in the heart of India

Bhopal: Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress believe that a 2% rise in women voting will go in their favour because of the Ladli Behna (ongoing) and Nari Samman Yojana (announced by the Congress) during the 2023 Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh.

A day after voting, both the BJP and the Congress reiterated their claims to win the elections following the release of final figures that stood at a record 77.2%. And more because more women had stepped out to vote.

In 2018, 74.03% of women had stepped out to vote, this time it’s 76.03%, there is a 2% rise in women voting in the 2023 Assembly elections, said an Election Commission official.

The trend has, however, brought a surprise and much-needed respite to both the political parties who have made the assembly election to be women-centric in several ways.

Throughout the elections, the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister kept his hopes high to turn the election in BJP’s favour with the ‘Ladli Behna’ scheme under which Rs. 1,250 per month will be provided by the state government as financial assistance to around 13 million women from poor families.

The Congress too made it a women-centric election, by promising Nari Samman Yojana to raise the amount to Rs. 1,500 per month, if voted to power.

The BJP-Congress women-centric promises were not able to infuse enough enthusiasm among the women voters in the constituencies of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath.

Today, voters participated in the festival of democracy with full enthusiasm, which is commendable, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan told media persons after the end of polling on the voting day on November 17. Ladli Behnas have created history by coming out in large numbers and supporting BJP, he claimed and added, “I salute them. This affection of yours energises and inspires me to work more for the welfare of sisters”.

The Congress too thought of striking a similar goal. State Congress chief and former chief minister believes the higher women turnout is a referendum against the BJP government due to the State topping the country in crimes against women and unbridled price rises.

In her public meetings, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had said, that women understand that the Ladli Behna scheme was rolled out just before elections and won’t be swayed by it.

The statistics speak volumes. In the Budhni Assembly segment, from where Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is contesting, Male voters showed more enthusiasm as compared to women voters. Statistically, in the constituency, 82.77% of women and 86.80% of male voters have voted.

The Chhindwara Assembly segment, where former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is the party’s candidate, reported 82.62% male and 80.92% women voters this time, according to the Election Commission.

A proportionate spike in voting by women in constituencies, where big players are contesting, went missing.

In Indore – 1 constituency, where BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, one of the party heavyweights who has been roped in by the central leadership, reported voting by 73.69% men and 70.82% women.

Women voters in the Dimani constituency seem to be cautious, where Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, seen as a potential CM candidate, is the party’s candidate. The assembly segment reported voting by 71.90% males and 67.29% women. In the Narsinghpur Assembly segment, where Union Minister Prahlad Patel is contesting, polling was reported as 84.65% for males and 81.45% for females.

Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Patel and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya – have been harbouring the ambition to become chief minister for a long time.

The assembly segments where former state president Rakesh Singh and BJP MP Ganesh are contesting did not witness as many women voters compared to men. In the Jabalpur Paschim Assembly segment where Rakesh Singh is contesting, voting was recorded as 72.91% for males and 70.32% for females. The Satna Assembly segment where BJP MP Ganesh Singh is contesting witnessed 72.64& men voters and 71.14% women voters.

There’s more. In the last assembly elections, there were 44 constituencies where more women voted than men. This time, the number is 34.

The voter sex ratio (number of female voters per 1000 male voters) has shot up – 917 in the 2018 assembly election, 918 in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to 945 in the 2023 Assembly election.

In 2018, 10 assembly segments reported more female voters as compared to males, yet more women voters voted than men in 51 of the 230 assembly constituencies in the State. This time, there are 29 assembly constituencies with more women voters than men, yet more women voted in 34 assembly segments.

Women voters are increasingly going to play a greater role in some of the key constituencies. One of them is the Churhat Assembly segment, from where Ajay Singh, former leader of the opposition and son of senior Congress leader late Arjun Singh is contesting. The segment witnessed polling by 66.64% male and 75.88% by women voters. The other key constituencies that recorded more women voting percentage are Niwas (81.97 % male & 82.22 female), where Union Minister Faggan Singh Kulaste and Sidhi (66.48% male & 72.89 female) where BJP MP Riti Pathak are contesting.

By tying itself deeply with women voters, the political parties have put the crucial election in a difficult situation in a State where 52,119 women in 2019, 52,357 in 2020 and 55,704 in 2021 went missing, indicating a concerning upward trend.

Anup Dutta

is a multimedia freelance journalist based in Bhopal. He reports on people, politics, policies, health, art and culture.

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