India is the largest democracy in the world with around 90 crore electorates, which is more than the combined population of Europe. The process of voting has started on April 11, 2019, and will end on May 19, 2019. This is a seven-phased election. The Indian voters will elect 543 members for the 17th Lok Sabha.
The election is an opportunity for the Indians to elect their suitable representatives. A suitable representative can speed up the process of development and solve the problems of common people. The election also provides us a chance to form a stable government. This is a proved fact that only a stable government can fulfill that need of people.
If we analyse the 2014 general election voting patterns, we will find some interesting results on social and economic aspects. Before putting the interesting result of Indian voting pattern, I focus on voting pattern around the world.
The voter turnout data published by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) indicate that the most recent national parliamentary elections for major developed and developing countries, where voting is optional as of the end of 2017, show that France has lowest turnout ratio (43 per cent) while Germany has the highest (76 per cent). India is also doing fairly well in comparison to other countries, as voter turnout ratio in India has improved significantly to 66.4 per cent in 2014 from 58.2 per cent in 2009.
The historical trend of voter turnout rate in general parliamentary election since 1971 reveals, there is much fluctuation in voter turnout on the Election Day during past 12 parliamentary elections and it largely varies from 55.2 per cent to 66.4 per cent with average turnout close to 60 per cent.
If we look at the voter turnout among male and female during this period, it shows female turnout was usually lower than their male counterpart. The gap which was as high as 11.9 per cent in 1971 election has come down to 1.5 per cent in 2014. This suggests that now women are actively participating in the election process and are more aware of their rights and are independent in decision making. Similarly, if we look at the voter turnout rate among 28 major States from the 1971 parliamentary election to the 2014 election, the highest turnout happened to in Kerala, West Bengal, and Tripura.
Further, if we closely observe the male and female turnout rates in these three States, the ratio is almost equal to each other. It means both males and females are actively participating in the election. The States which are lagging in voter turnout rate are the ones where females are not actively involved electorally for e.g., in Bihar, UP, MP, Maharashtra, and J&K.
Socio-political factors like, population size, age, educational attainment, political interest, and economic backwardness play a major role which has been the major driving factors behind voter turnout rates. So, to improve the women turnout rate in India, all the stakeholders starting from Government, Election Commission, Media and civic society should encourage, facilitate, and promote women to come forward and participate in the election process.
In addition to this, another important aspect which leads to low turnout is interstate and intra-state migration of both male and female. Over the years both male and female are migrating due to various reasons like looking for a better life, employment, marriage, and Education which impact the overall voter turnout rate. We have calculated the net migration and mapped with the Percentage of voter turnout among major States and the result shows States like UP, Bihar, Odisha, Rajasthan, and J&K have both migration and low voter turnout rate.
Looking at the various indicators viz. life expectancy rate, secondary gross enrolment rate there is no pattern which emerges between the voter turnout ratio and these indicators. However, when the states are ranked on the basis of multi-dimensional poverty index with highest poverty state ranked as 1 and compared with rank assigned to states on the basis of voter turnout with 1st rank assigned to state with highest voter turnout, different patterns emerge.
Certain states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand with high poverty have lower voter turnout. Further, most of the North-east and Eastern states have higher turnout rates and varying levels of poverty. A group of states including Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, and Punjab also have high voter turnout rate but associated with a lower level of deprivation.
The Election Commission data indicates that there was around 1.24 crore missing women electorate at the time of 2014 elections in 10 states only. By missing women, we mean the group of women who are eligible to vote but are not yet registered as voters. This is a deeply alarming situation since it means that approximately 1.25 crore women are denied their constitutional right to vote. These are disturbingly high numbers of disenfranchised women which warrant some urgent remedial measures.
There are two important issues that need urgent attention from the government. Are 543 seats enough to represent 130 crore population? Since currently, only 543 Lok Sabha constituencies represent 130 crore people in the country, it is time to take a look at the legal provisions on the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies till 2026 with a view to increasing their number in order to rationalise population per seat which is currently at 15.6 lakh. Even countries like UK, Germany Italy France, etc., have more than India’s strength with bicameral status.
In a nutshell, we can say that the government should focus on the above issues and take corrective actions on case to case basis. If the government does this, the result will make our democracy stronger.
By Satish Singh
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of AFTERNOON VOICE and AFTERNOON VOICE does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)