Women voters for Mamata Banerjee were significant in leading her Trinamool Congress (TMC) to a third-term win in Bengal, post-poll data shows. In currently the only state in India where a woman sits on the Chief Minister chair, the female electorate - impressive at 48.71 percent - showed up for Banerjee with unrelenting support.
Though such has consistently been the trend ever since she came to power in Bengal in 2011, experts say this win is "sweeter" for her in the event that Banerjee, with her one-woman show, was up against the formidable force of the national Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Between Bengal's 3,58,45,115 male voters and 3,40,45,313 female voters, the electorate spoke favourably in favour of female leadership.
A post-poll survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)'s Lokniti programme shows that a clean half (50 percent) of Bengal's female electorate voted for the TMC in the 2021 Vidhan Sabha elections while 37 percent voted for the BJP. As opposed to the male vote share - wherein 46 percent went to TMC and 40 percent to the BJP - female support for Banerjee was multiple points higher.
The remaining votes went to other contending parties.
What Trends Show: How Was The Female Vote Divided?
TMC with Banerjee in the lead has seen similar trends ever since the party was pitted against the BJP as a contender. Lokniti-CSDS data reflects that in the 2016 assembly polls, 48 percent of the total female vote went to the TMC, four points higher than the male vote percentage that went to TMC.
SheThePeople accessed a report prepared by Aishwarya Sunaad, Niharika Mehrotra and Shreyashree Nayak, student researchers at the Ashoka University under the supervision of TCPD Associate Director Priyamvada Trivedi.
Collated research data shows 2016 was the year when the female voter count jumped by nearly 50000 in Bengal, markedly the highest female voter turnout the state had ever seen since 1996.
Between the 20-year-period assessed, Bengal saw the lowest voter turnout in 2001 under CPM rule, down by 10 percent. The turnout significantly grew when Banerjee's TMC first consolidated their rule in the state in 2011, pushing out the three-decades-long communist administration. Since then, there has been an uptick in the voice of the female voter.
Clear upward trajectory in the significance of female franchise in Bengal since Mamata came to power; a positive trend other states should emulate
A wider-angled look at the 2021 data however shows that even the paths lined with women voters for Mamata Banerjee were thorny. Where more upper-caste women (45 percent), Muslim minority women (75 percent) and Adivasi women (49 percent) voted for the TMC, votes from women of the Dalit-OBC communities went to the BJP.
"While the BJP has benefitted from the Dalit and OBC vote, TMC has obviously benefitted from the minority vote… A lot of upper-caste vote has gone to Mamata too," Shutapa Paul, author of Banerjee's biography Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee, tells us.
The TMC supremo, through her campaign, continued to play up her "Hindu girl" identity as rebuttals to the BJP's barbs. "The women of Bengal definitely have a strong connection with Mamata because they identify with her," she adds. Full interview here.
Women Voters For Mamata Unrelenting In Support: Some Bullets To Note
- Half of Bengal's total female vote went to the TMC
- Female votes for TMC show a rise in 2021 assembly polls, from the recorded 48 percent in 2016 polls
- A distinction in the way men and women voted was apparent, layered further by the class-caste divide
- More upper-caste and Adivasi women voted for Banerjee's party, upper-caste and Adivasi men drifted towards the BJP
- Women from the Dalit (53 percent) and OBC (54 percent) communities voted for the BJP; similar trends for men
- A prominent chunk of the minority vote (75 percent for both genders) went to the TMC in refusal of the BJP's communal rhetoric
- Where women with economic resources voted for the BJP (42 percent) above TMC (40 percent), the poor, lower and middle-class women pledged support for the TMC. Election experts surmise the grassroots voter seemed to be satisfied with the schemes (like Kanyashree and Rupashree for women) implemented by Banerjee. More here.