Shimla, Nov 7 (IANS) Known for its healthy gender ratio, the remote tribal-dominated Lahaul & Spiti district in Himachal Pradesh has created another record: Women voters outnumbered men in the Nov 4 assembly polls.
Neeraj Sharma, officer on special duty with the state election department here, told IANS that the turnout of women voters in Lahaul & Spiti was 76.51 percent against 73.42 percent for men.
The district, known in the country for growing sweet potatoes and bitter hops, has 10,995 men and 10,915 women voters, of whom 8,073 men and 8,352 women exercised their franchise Nov 4.
Interestingly, the sprawling Buddhist-dominated district, which spreads over 13,835 sq km, has 1,013 females per 1,000 males in the 0-6 age group as per the 2011 census - the highest in the country at the district level.
The district has a population of 31,528 - 16,455 males and 15,073 females.
An election official said the percentage of women voters exercising their franchise in the state has been on the rise since the 1993 assembly elections.
"For almost two decades, the women outnumbered men as voters and they hold the key to the formation of the every government," an election official said.
The turnout of women (71.10 percent) was almost similar with that of men (71.90 percent) in 1993.
After that, the turnout of women voters exceeded that of men. Against 70.26 percent turnout of men, it was 72.21 percent of the women who exercised their franchise in the 1998 assembly polls.
In the 2003 assembly elections, 75.92 percent women cast their vote compared to 73.14 percent men and in 2007, 74.01 percent women cast their vote compared to 68.36 percent men.
The highest turnout of women was recorded this year, when 77.05 percent women cast their vote, whereas 70.93 men turned up to exercise their franchise - a difference of 6.12 percent.
While 1,704,023 women exercised their franchise, 1,647,388 men came out to vote to elect their representatives.
The overall voting in the state was around 75 percent - a record high - for the 68 assembly constituencies, an official said.
Social scientists attribute the increased participation of women in the democratic process to the higher literacy and awareness drives by the Election Commission.
"Women are more active in the state than men, be it in the fields or participating in the democratic process," said Subhash Mendhapurkar, director of NGO Social Uplift Through Rural Action (SUTRA).
Sadly, the main parties in the state - the Congress, the BJP and the CPI-M - have not been fair to women.
As against the four women candidates fielded by the Congress this time, the BJP has fielded seven women, including four sitting legislators. The CPI-M has only one.
A total of 27 women out of 459 candidates are in the fray. The votes of the Nov 4 elections will be counted Dec 20.
From 1972 till 2007, only 19 women have won from 36 constituencies, some winning more than once like Congress leader and seven-time legislator Vidya Stokes.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)