Without waiting for law reserving one third seats for women in legislative bodies, Odisha chief minister and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik announced today that his party would field women candidates in at least 33 per cent of 21 Lok Sabah seats of the state, in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
Last week, it may be recalled that West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee said that her party is already having one third of their MPs and MLAs from women. Though BJP has been providing one third of party positions to women, TMC and BJD will be first political parties in the country providing one third seats in elections to women.
At the ‘Mission Shakti’ convention in the politically-important Kendrapara district, Patnaik made the announcement soon after the election commission said it would hold a press conference, apparently to announce Lok Sabha election schedule. He was however silent on extending the same to the 147 assembly seats in the state, where BJD is up against a resurgent BJP that is eyeing at least 7-8 Lok Sabha seats, up from the one it had in 2014 elections.
Patnaik said it is now incumbent on national parties like BJP and Congress to follow suit. They should be true to their words and must follow what they are propagating for women empowerment, he added. Two days back, Congress president Rahul Gandhi at an election rally in Koraput district had promised to get the Women’s Reservation Bill (108th Constitution Amendment Bill) passed in Lok Sabha if Congress came to power.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJD had fielded only 2 women candidates in Jajpur and Keonjhar. Later it nominated another women candidate from Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat after its sitting MP died. In the 2014 Assembly polls, BJD had fielded 14 women candidates. Of the 11 women MLAs in the current Assembly, ruling BJD has 10 members while the BJP has the rest one.