Factors that influence women voter turnout

Promises of freebies by DMK and AIADMK have caught their imagination, but no conclusion can be arrived at

Women voters have outnumbered men in 103 high-turnout Assembly constituencies of a total of 137 such constituencies, where the overall turnout has exceeded the State’s average of 72.81%.

This is a feature of the continuing trend of greater number of women taking part in the election than men. “There is nothing to feel surprised by the trend, which has been there since the times of [former Chief Ministers] M.G. Ramachandran and Jayalalithaa,” says P. Ramajayam, an academic. Major parties have been mobilising women because they regard it as a mark of authenticity for their prospects.

As regards the relationship between a higher women turnout and the chances of the success of a party, he says, “You cannot form any stereotypical conclusion about their choice. The women factor has always brought in an impressive change.”

Despite the DMK and the AIADMK giving certain attractive assurances, the women do not feel so much excited, and this should be one of the reasons for the women turnout in 2021 not exceeding that of the 2016 election, in which 74.33% women had cast their votes as against 72.55% this time, Dr. Ramajayam adds.

But K.M. Rama Goundar, a Krishnagiri farmer, views the assurances — the provision of ₹1,000 a month (by the DMK) or ₹1,500 a month to the woman head of every family and washing machines (by the AIADMK) — as those which have caught the imagination of the women. “My reading is that they have voted en masse for a party of their choice.”

A woman academic, who teaches political science at a city college, stresses that the two principal parties promises freebies to woo women as the freebies are meant to make the lives of the women easy. But once the election is over and the portfolios are allocated, the women are not given their due.

E. M. Sudarasana Natchiappan, a former Union Minister, says the current election cannot be called an issue-based election. “In my estimate, 60% of the electors need motivational factors to come to polling booths… This holds good for the women too.”

Migration factor

As for a higher number of women than men having voted in many constituencies in the Cauvery delta and southern districts, he says that thanks to the migration of a large number of men from this region, it is women who outnumber men at the polling booths. Though one half of the men have returned to their native places in districts such as Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga after COVID-19 broke out, there is a “perceptible lack of interest” among them to vote, he adds.

A veteran political leader says neither the AIADMK nor the DMK has a “magnetic personality” to hold sway over women.

“When MGR was alive, it was said famously that while men would vote for the DMK, women would support him and the AIADMK. And, during the period of Jayalalithaa, she had a following among women of the working class,” he said.


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