The focus of political parties on women in the recently concluded Madhya Pradesh polls was clear. Ruling BJP’s scheme ‘Ladli Behna’ was widely publicised as a possible game changer. However, voting data does not shine any light on a special trend regarding voting by Madhya Pradesh women this time.
The final turnout in the state was declared by the Election Commission at 77.15 per cent – a record for Madhya Pradesh electoral history. Gender-wise, 78.21 per cent men and 76.03 per cent women voted. The total number of electors was 5,60,58, 521 this time of which 2,71,99,586 were women.
In 2018 polls, the voting percentage for men and women in the state was at 75.98 per cent and 74.03 per cent respectively.
This means that though the turnout of women voters increased by 2 per cent this time, they lagged behind men voters. Besides, the difference in voting percentage between the two genders increased marginally from 1.95 per cent to 2.18 per cent.
Given these statistics, poll analysts are refraining from making any comments on the possible impact of the active wooing of women voters by the BJP as well as Congress. Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP not only came out with the 'Ladli Behna' scheme of Rs 1,250 monthly cash assistance to women and a promise (though not in poll manifesto) to increase it up to Rs 3,000 per month, but also added the promise of subsidized domestic gas cylinders, extension of free education scheme and other sops for girl students, among others.
Chouhan took it upon himself to display ‘brotherly affection’ to the women in all his campaign meetings and also arranged various events that showcased his special bond with women.
The Congress claimed that the 'Ladli Behna' scheme of the BJP government and other pre-poll sops announced by the ruling party was in response to its own promises to women. The Congress has promised Rs 1,500 monthly cash assistance, subsidized gas cylinders and various protection/safety measures for women.
But whether these sops and promises actually cut ice with the women is hardly apparent in the voting pattern.
That there has been a substantial increase in women’s voting over the past 25 years is apparent in statistics. From 53.53 per cent voting in 1998 to 76.03 in 2023, women’s turnout has increased by a whopping 22.5 per cent, compared to 11.76 per cent increase in men’s voting (from 66.45 to 78.21 per cent in corresponding period). The gender difference in turnout has also sharply dipped from 12.92 per cent to merely 2.18 per cent in these 25 years.
This clearly indicates a sharp rise in awareness about voting rights among women. There has always been speculation that a substantial section of Madhya Pradesh women have supported the ruling BJP due to the pro-women schemes of the Chouhan-led government and this has been the reason for continued electoral success of the saffron party. Whether the trend continues for the ruling party remains to be seen as the women’s voting trend has also shown only a minuscule change as did the overall voting, thus keeping the poll analysts confused.
Tribal voters keep up enthusiasm
The tribal voters in the state – another one of the major deciding factors – kept up their enthusiasm during the current polls too with heavy voting. At least nine of the 47 scheduled tribe reserved seats reported over 85 per cent voting with Sailana in Ratlam district topping the chart in the state at 90.1 per cent turnout.
Sailana was top performer in 2018 too, with 89.13 per cent voting. The overall tribal voting was heavy too in that election.
Among other reserved constituencies that showed heavy polling include Amarwara in Chhindwara (88.63 per cent), Barghat in Seoni (88.31 per cent), Thandla in Jhabua (86.97 per cent), Pandhurna in Chhindwara (86.21 per cent), Ratlam rural (86.20 per cent), Junnardeo in Chhindwara (85.83 per cent), Baihar in Balaghat (85.16 per cent) and Timarni in Harda district (84.61 per cent).
Based on voting statistics of the past, it is a strongly held belief that in Madhya Pradesh, the political party supported by the tribal voters gets past the post. In the 2018 polls, the Congress managed to get into power after a gap of 15 years as it managed to win 31 of the 47 ST reserved seats.
This was a situation in contrast with the previous three elections when the BJP won 31 and 29 of the 47 tribal seats in 2018 and 2013 respectively and as many as 37 of the 41 seats (before the latest delimitation) in the 2003 polls that saw BJP catapult to a mega win in the state.
Before this, in the 1993 and 1998 polls that the Congress won, it had won 35 and 29 of the 41 seats respectively. In its 1990 win, the BJP had won 30 of the 41 tribal seats.
Gender-based turnout (in pc)
Year Men Women
2023 78.21 76.03
2018 75.98 74.03
2013 73. 86 70.09
2008 72.30 65.91
2003 71.94 62.14
1998 66.45 53.53