The year 2022 is crucial for Indian politics, and five states are all set to go into Assembly Polls that will pave the way for the all-important Lok Sabha elections in 2024. They include Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, Manipur and Uttarakhand.
The 'carnival of democracy' is up and running, with COVID-19 lurking in the shadows. The Election Commission may have prohibited mass rallies, but political parties are leaving no stones unturned in their campaigns.
The past year has seen all the highs and lows. From the pandemic to the farmers' protest, all such issues will form the fulcrum these polls will run. However, this year, the stakes could not have been higher. Several parties are have created a more women-centric manifesto to oppose the religion-heavy electoral promises made by the BJP. Parties like Congress and Samajwadi Party want women at the forefront of the elections.
The preceding years has seen a gradual rise in women involvement. From casting their vote to participating as a candidate, women from different walks of life have exercised their fundamental right to make their own decisions and have their say in India's political future.
Women Involvement On The Rise
History has it that women have never been the flagbearers of politics in India. However, the numbers say otherwise. The Election Commission's statistics clearly show that women have a better strike rate than men when it comes to winning elections since the Lok Sabha polls in 1952.
Women participation was at its best until 1962 when it lagged by 17% compared to their male counterparts. Several societal and patriarchal obligations made it difficult for them to participate.
It took 52 years to tip the gender balance. In 2014, the Lok Sabha elections saw a 65.5% women turnout which was later overtaken by over 67% three years later in 2019. Since then, the female vote bank has proved lucrative for political parties as their manifestos have specific demands for women
'Ladki Hu, Lad Sakti Hu': Congress' Clarion Call
Ahead of the upcoming Assembly Elections, women have been the prime focus. To oppose BJP's religious-based politics, opposition parties like Congress, Samajwadi Party etc., are bringing about manifestos that aim to uplift women. Congress in October also decided to reserve 40 per cent tickets in UP elections for women. The manifesto of the party is women-centric, targeting women issues.' Ladki hu, lad Sakti hu' is the name of the campaign the party has come up with that focuses on self-respect, self-reliance, education, empowerment, security and health of women.
Recently, Congress gave the ticket to Unnao rape survivor's mother, Asha Singh. They also gave a ticket to Sadaf Jafar, who was jailed during the CAA-NRC, subjected to torture in custody. With this, the beleaguered party wants to make inroads in Uttar Pradesh by bringing those to the forefront who the current administration has wronged.
The party has also come up with the idea of giving zero or low-interest rate loans and tax refunds for small scale women business owners. The party plans to provide a smartphone to all girls studying in 10+2, and a scooty for every girl enrolled in undergraduate programmes.
Across Uttar Pradesh, 75 skill schools, named after female warriors, will be launched. Female constables in all police stations are to be employed with a 25 per cent reservation for women in UP Police. The party has also proposed providing EV scooties and digital tablets for women in Punjab and Rs2000 to acknowledge the work done by housewives.
AAP And BJP- Not Far Behind
The Aam Aadmi Party is also following suit. It started a registration drive in Punjab with the promise of providing Rs 1,000 to women if his party came to power.
When it comes to BJP, many of its ongoing schemes have catered to women. From 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao' to 'Ujjwala Yojana' and the abolition of 'Triple Talaq for Muslim women, they have catered to women from all walks of life. Women's participation in the elections increased significantly during the years the Modi government came back to power. In Uttar Pradesh, women overtook men regarding the election turnout in the Assembly Elections 2017.
Encouraging Women To Participate
The Election Commission announced that women would manage at least one polling station in each constituency to increase women participation. Women will be assuming the roles of elections officers and police officers stationed at the polling station. The commission has decided to set up 1620 polling booths exclusively for women to encourage them to vote without any hesitation.
CEC Sushil Chandra also announced that 11.4 lakh first-time women voters from five states would cast their vote in the 2022 elections. Women have outnumbered men in getting their names registered on the electoral rolls in Uttar Pradesh (UP). For 2022 elections, there are 26.10 lakh voters currently, out of which 12,14,751 are female, 13,95,249 are male, and 121 are third-gender voters. In Uttarakhand, 5.37 lakh voters include 3,11,106 female voters and 2,25,969 male voters
Will The Gallant Promises Be Fulfilled?
In all, the manifestos look promising. They prove the importance of the women Vote Bank in our country's political dynamics. With young women being actively involved, their voices need to be heard to determine India's future.
From an electoral point of view, Uttar Pradesh is on every political party's bucket list to conquer. With a bevvy of important constituencies, it is the ultimate battleground in the upcoming elections. However, women's safety has been plagued the state, and several reports suggest that it is one of the most unsafe places for young women to live in. Not only that, Priyanka Maurya, the face of Congress' 'Ladki Hu Lad Sakti Hu' campaign, has decided to go and contest elections with BJP, much to the party's chagrin.
Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath is infamous for his misogynistic statements about women. Many may defend him for changing his views years later; this stays in the voters' minds for a very long time.
Only time will tell how the elections will pan out. The verdict will set the tone for the Lok Sabha elections two years later. However, it is safe to say that women will no longer take the back seat. Their say matters, and they are here to stay to bring significant changes in Indian politics.