Women's participation in elections has been rising much faster than men, and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections could be the first time in India's history that women's turnout will be higher than men's, claims a new book.
Between the 1962 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections there has been nearly a 20 per cent increase in women's turnout versus only a five per cent increase in men's turnout, it says.
"Today, the turnout of both women and men is almost the same. In fact, in State Assembly elections, women's turnout has now overtaken men's turnout. Women voters had a 71 per cent turnout versus 70 per cent for men. A revolutionary change, the book "The Verdict: Decoding India's Elections" says.
Written by Prannoy Roy and Dorab R Sopariwala, the book seeks to address the need for a detached assessment of almost seven decades of elections, their evolution, the enormity of their scale and their confounding complexity.
It uses psephology, research and as-yet-undisclosed facts to talk about the entire span of India's electoral history from the first elections in 1952.
The authors say that in their four decades of observing elections, they don't recall ever seeing the level of interest, both in India and globally, as there is in the outcome of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
They also argue that the anti-incumbency era is over.
"India is now going through what can be called a 'Fifty: Fifty Era'. Governments today have a 50:50 chance of being re-elected. Governments that perform are voted back. Those that do not deliver are voted out. The angry voter has given way to a wiser, more mature voter," they write.
"The underlying probability of governments being voted back has risen from 30 per cent to 50 per cent. This may come as a relief to many ruling state governments as well as to the central government," the book, published by Penguin Random House, says.
According to Roy and Sopariwala, this 'Fifty: Fifty era' marks a "sea change in India's electoral history, which has had three major turning points: pro-incumbency (1952–1977), anti-incumbency (1977–2002) and fifty: fifty (2002–2019)".
While a 50 per cent re-election rate is far more reassuring for ruling governments than earlier, this is low compared with the re-election rates of over 80 per cent in developed economies, they say.
On who will win this time, the authors say, "The bad news for ruling governments is that the voter is wiser and smarter. Voters throw out all non-performing governments and re-elect governments that have worked and delivered."
Any forecast of the Lok Sabha result is likely to be more accurate if the prediction allocates a clear victory, one way or the other, in each state of India and all the different landslides in each state are added up to reach a final all-India forecast for 2019, they say.
Lok Sabha elections will be held over seven phases from April 11 through May 19, followed by counting of all votes on May 23. Assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal, Odisha and Sikkim will also be held simultaneously.
The voters' yardstick for 'performance', according to the book, is whether economic growth translates into genuine development on the ground, in their lives and their constituencies.
"So elections today are not won simply by flamboyance. The most successful chief ministers over the last 20 years, with high re-election rates, have been low-key, result-oriented leaders like Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Naveen Patnaik, Raman Singh, Manik Sarkar and Sheila Dikshit. All at least three-time winners. Oratory also works as long as it is combined with development, as in the case of Narendra Modi when he was chief minister of Gujarat," it says.
The authors also claim that the focus of this election will be the women in villages.
They conclude by saying that this is the "most important election of our times and is also likely to be the most complex election of our times".