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Women score over men on election pitch

Patna, May 15: This general election, women outnumbered men in exercising their franchise in the state.

The participation of women voters stood at 57.44 per cent compared to 55.1 per cent of males. The turnout of female voters was not just impressive. In some cases, they eclipsed previous records.

According to statistics, a little over 62.93 lakh more female voters exercised their franchise in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls compared to the 2009 general election. Total 1,70,68,496 female voters took part in the democratic exercise this time. Five years ago, only 1,07,75,241 female voters had turned up to cast votes.

Of the 40 parliamentary seats in the state, women voters outnumbered males in 26 constituencies. Katihar topped the list with 71.06 per cent female voters casting votes in the 2014 general election compared to 64.37 per cent male voters.

Patna Sahib and Nalanda were far behind. Records reveal that 45.8 per cent female voters used their right to vote in Nalanda, the home district of chief minister Nitish Kumar, in the 2014 general election compared to 29.11 per cent in 2009. Similarly, the turnout of female voters was only 41.51 per cent in the Patna Sahib Lok Sabha constituency compared to 28.31 per cent in 2009.

“True, the two high-profile constituencies recorded less female voter turnout in 2014. At the same time, it’s a fact that there has been a substantial rise in the number of female voters turning up at polling booths later,” said a senior officer posted at the state election department.

Supaul, Kishanganj, Ujiarpur, Purnea, Araria, Siwan, Muzaffarpur, Valmikinagar, West Champaran, Madhepura, Vaishali, Begusarai, Khagaria, Darbhanga, Banka and Samastipur seats witnessed over 60 per cent turnout of women voters. Supaul recorded 68.63 per cent followed by Purnea (66.4 per cent), Araria (64.88 per cent) and Ujiarpur (64.20 per cent).

Officials of the Election Commission of India and the Bihar government staked claim for the high turnout of women voters.

“The election commission’s endeavour forced both women and male voters to come out and vote,” said the state’s chief electoral officer, Ajay V. Naik. He claimed that apart from voters’ awareness campaign and deployment of special observer for the purpose, state icons like Sharda Sinha and Ratan Rajput were roped in to appeal to the electorate to cast their votes. “Women voters came out in large numbers this time and outnumbered their male counterparts,” Naik told The Telegraph.

The state government officials did not lag behind in staking their claim. “A similar scene was witnessed during the 2010 Assembly elections. The credit must go to the state government’s initiatives to empower women at the panchayat-level,” an officer of the panchayati raj department said.

The state government provided 50 per cent reservations to women in the appointment of teachers in government schools and panchayat polls.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar repeatedly said the impressive turnout of women voters augured well for the JD(U). “This is not a run-of-the mill phenomenon that women have outnumbered men at many polling stations. This is a social change and result of a slew of welfare schemes launched by the state government,” Nitish wrote on his Facebook wall after the elections were over on May 7.