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Tue, 30 Apr 2013 08:30:00 GMT | By The Hindu Business Line/Vinati Dev

‘She’ can be the secret ballot

In 2012, women made up 53 per cent of voters on Election Day, casting over 64 million votes in the presidential race

‘She’ can be the secret ballot (© Reuters)

The current effort by political parties to bring more women into the political process through reservations and quotas in Parliament and panchayats is only one part of a national project to make woman an important stakeholder in India’s democracy.

The other part is to reorient political strategies to view women as a voting block — that is, as a mega constituency of its own, which supersedes ethnic, geographic, caste and other narrowly defined identities. Historically, while Indian elections have been fought and analysed, rightly so, by understanding vote-bank loyalties, it would be short-sighted for parities to assume there is no mutability in these categories as democracy matures.

We have already seen the rhetoric change from one focussed on ‘Hindu’, ‘Muslim’, ‘farmer’, ‘soldier’, ‘Scheduled Castes/Tribes’ to ‘middle class’ , ‘rural-urban’, skilled’, ‘migrant’, and so on. The same will hold true for as women as they begin to see policies and politics as affecting their own welfare or not. It is worth looking at the US elections to see how targeting women voters has become an integral and critical part of any presidential contest.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, women voters in the US have both outnumbered and out-voted men since 1980. Indeed, their ability to shift electoral outcomes has caused parties, candidates, and strategists alike to recognise the value of their vote.

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