What women want: For Delhi women voters.
Women are a big reason behind AAP’s runaway success in Delhi, according to a poll-eve survey by Lokniti CSDS. Women were a full 11 percentage points more likely to have voted AAP than BJP. This has been attributed to many causes: AAP’s offer of free public transport, cutting water and electricity bills, and rise in household expenses that was held against BJP. There is speculation that women were less receptive to BJP’s inflammatory “goli maaro” rhetoric and violent crackdown on anti-CAA demonstrators – another reason for the gender gap.
Women’s turnout has been growing rapidly in the last two decades, reaching a historic high in the 2019 Lok Sabha election – only 0.4% behind the male turnout – when BJP won its huge mandate. The question of whether women are a distinct enough category, or how they vote, has no glib answers. However, historical election data shows BJP tends to be less popular among women across groups.
Some scholarship suggests that women feel more embedded in their group identities, and also that they are overall poorer and more precariously placed. They favour welfare policies attuned to their priorities – the alcohol ban in some states, or policies that reduce their care burden, have been attempts to woo women voters. But whatever the reasons, the Delhi election has shown us a clear divergence in attitudes. All parties should listen more carefully to half the electorate, instead of assuming they are just an extension of male voters.