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New Delhi: Babita Kumari, 32, a beautician in the Israeli Camp settlement in south Delhi’s Rangpuri area, has developed a new habit over the past few weeks—every morning and night she accesses her husband’s Twitter account to check the latest political development, which politician is trending and why.

“New channels keep you abreast of developments but it is on Twitter that I actually find unbiased opinions. And these days it is very important that you hear all sides," she says.

Her neighbour, Sarita Devi, who works as a maid, does not know what Twitter is but she seconds Babita’s view about being informed. “My vote is very important as it will determine my immediate future. I can’t afford to squander it."

Babita Kumari and Sarita Devi are among the 5.9 million registered women voters in Delhi. As the state prepares to go to polls again, women voters such as Kumari and Devi have emerged an important constituency for political parties.

The 2014 general election saw women vote in large numbers. According to the Election Commission of India, 65% of the women eligible to vote actually voted in the 2014 parliamentary elections. This was a marked increase from the 57.23% in 2009. “We saw a distinct increase in participation of women voters in the 2014 general election," says Sanjay Kumar, director, Centre for Study of Developing Societies, a Delhi-based think tank.

Women are as divided an electorate as men, he adds. “Over the years there had been a slight inclination towards the Congress (and against the BJP), but this seems to have disappeared with the 2014 elections."

The three main parties in the fray in Delhi know the hot-button issues for women.

In the 2013 assembly elections, which threw up a hung assembly, these were inflation, security, and corruption.

It’s the same in 2015.

The parties are all speaking about lower power tariffs and 24x7 water. But it is security that everyone is really emphasizing.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has been running radio ads featuring women complaining about how unsafe they feel in Delhi. Its manifesto has promised CCTV cameras and security guards just about everywhere.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), one political analyst says, has done one better—its choice of a chief ministerial candidate was driven with an eye on the security issue.

“I would say the gang-rape protests of 2012 have a lot to do with Kiran Bedi’s selection as the chief ministerial candidate. The BJP hopes her selection will send out the signal that it is serious about women’s security," says political analyst Manisha Priyam.

Priyam’s reference is to the gang-rape and murder of a young physiotherapy student in 2012 that galvanized the city and shook its administrators.

Bedi, who made her name as a police officer, has a 25-point action plan for women’s security which involves everything from ensuring adequate street lighting to self defence classes in educational institutes and distribution of safety kits which would include among other things, a pepper spray. The parties may be right to emphasize the security and safety of women. The constant looking over your shoulder, the niggling worry of being out of home after dark has always been a feature of life for a woman in Delhi, according to Rita Chaudhry, an entrepreneur in Naraina, west Delhi.

“The whole system is flawed. If you don’t use public transport then you worry about cabs. If you drive then you worry about the other people on the roads. As a woman and a mother you wonder just how much you can secure your loved ones. Safety should be assumed and not always under threat."

Chaudhry is worried about inflation and high power and water bills, but it’s security she worries about the most—and it is probably this that will decide who she votes for.

All women, across the spectrum, are worried about Delhi’s record when it comes to the safety of women, Priyam adds. According to Delhi Police, the number of rape cases rose from 1,571 in 2013 to 2,069 in 2014 while molestation cases grew from 3,345 to 4,179 over the same period.

Kumar disagrees. “Security is important but for a large section of women issues like price rise are equally important."

Indeed, for many of the women in Israeli Camp, inflation and jobs (or the lack of them) matter as much as security.

“I earn 2,000 every month. With tomatoes alone rising to 100 a kg (in July), how much do you think my salary stretches?" asks Gayatri, one such resident, who works as a domestic help and gave only one name.

But don’t under-estimate the issue of security or other gender issues, warns Priyam. “The infrastructure development has been gender neutral, aspirations are gender neutral but social authority has not been able to keep pace with this. As more and more young women enter the work force and aspire to a better life, these issues will become the deciding factor for them."

The protests that happened in 2012 after the gang-rape saw women from all sections coming out, she adds.

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