Election after election, women voters have continued to ally themselves with Mamata Banerjee’s party
Of the various factors that contributed to the Trinamool Congress’s victory in the Assembly election, the support of women voters for Mamata Banerjee is significant. And this is not new for this election — even in polls held during the last decade, women have always come out in support of Mamata Banerjee. Not only have women voters managed to bridge the turnout deficit vis-à-vis men, but their voting preferences have also been different. For the fourth straight election in the State (counting both Assembly and Lok Sabha elections), women voted for the Trinamool in higher proportions than men.
According to the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, the gender gap this time was to the tune of four percentage points, slightly lower than in the past, but still significantly large. While 46% of men voted for the Trinamool Congress, two points lower than the party’s average vote share, among women voters, support for the Trinamool Congress touched 50%. This higher-than-average voting for the Trinamool among women also meant that the ruling party got a far bigger advantage over its principal opponent, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), among women than men. For men, the Trinamool Congress was ahead of the BJP by six percentage points, and among women, the Trinamool’s lead over the BJP was twice as high at a massive 13 percentage points.
Women voters seem to have been instrumental in driving up the Trinamool Congress’s seat numbers. A somewhat similar trend was witnessed in the 2016 Assembly election, when the Left Front-Congress alliance had trailed behind the Trinamool Congress by just two percentage points among men voters but by 12 percentage points among women.
The question that arises is, what has attracted women voters towards Mamata Banerjee election after election? It seems that many welfare schemes specifically targeted at women, like Kanyashree, Rupashree or bicycles for girl students, that the Mamata Banerjee-government launched during its tenure, may well have enhanced her popularity among women voters. Further, the fact that Ms. Banerjee has given greater representation to women in her party and government could also be making her more popular amongst women. This election saw the Trinamool Congress giving tickets to as many as 50 women, five more than the 2016 election.
A number of schemes
Another possible explanation for the Trinamool doing exceedingly well among women voters this time could be the party’s election manifesto promise that it would provide a minimum monthly income to the woman head of every family — ₹500 for those from the general category and ₹1,000 for those from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBC families. The Trinamool’s vote share among Dalit women was five percentage points more than it was among Dalit men, seven points more among upper-caste women, and 13 points more among Adivasi women.
Another category of women that particularly stood out in its support for the Trinamool this time was that of elderly women aged 45 years and above. Over half of them voted for the Trinamool and only some, about a third, opted for the BJP. Women from the poorest backgrounds also emerged as Trinamool’s strong supporters. Interestingly, the only category of women that ended up siding more with the BJP than the Trinamool in this election was that of upper-class women.
The author is co-director of the Lokniti programme at CSDS