In a historic decision, Biju Janta Dal Chief and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik on Sunday announced that his party will reserve 33% seats in Lok Sabha elections for women candidates. Patnaik the four-time CM made this declaration addressing a crowd of more than a lakh people in Kendrapara—his father’s old constituency.

The announcement has given way to assumptions, as rumours say, that the party’s candidacy will see a sea change with this provision. “I would like to announce here at Kendrapara, the ‘karma bhumi’ of legendary Biju Babu, that Odisha will send 33% women to parliament in the coming elections,” Patnaik said.

In the previous election, Patnaik’s party won 20 of 21 Odisha Lok Sabha constituencies, of which two were women, this time, he swore to field seven women candidates.

Patnaik’s decision comes as an inspiration from his father and former CM Biju Patnaik who had introduced 33% reservation of women in the three-tier Panchayati raj elections. This was increased to 50% in 2012 by Patnaik’s then government, for both Panchayati raj and urban local bodies. BJD minister Usha Devi called this move “very constructive as it took Biju Babu’s and BJD’s legacy forward.”

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“If India is to lead the world, if India is to be an advanced nation like America and China, then women empowerment is the only answer… I call upon national parties that they should be true to their words, and follow what they are propagating for women empowerment,” the CM said. But the BJD has not committed to reserving seats for women in the assembly. The Odisha assembly, where BJD holds more than a comfortable majority, passed a resolution for Parliament to enact a law reserving a third of LS seats for women last November.

Speaking to SheThePeople.TV Annie Raja of CPI said, “It is a welcome move and this announcement has once again kicked start the debate of 33% reservation for women so that way it is a bold initiative. In a situation where we are witnessing the patriarchy play in political parties while determining candidates, this comes as a refreshing move. However, the seats given to women should be winnable then only it will ensure women’s presence in parliament.”

It is a welcome move and this announcement has once again kicked start the debate of 33% reservation for women so that way it is a bold initiative.

Tara Krishnaswamy, founder of Political Shakti also appreciated the announcement. “Today it stands as the most democratic party in the country. It is a huge announcement and not to be taken lightly. Yes, it applies only to parliament and doesn’t apply to assembly seats but still it is a fantastic start. He hasn’t said that he will give more tickets than last time but he said that he will give one-third of the tickets to women; which is outstanding. Remember now, it is a whole state full of women who will get representation.

BJD has a history of standing in favour of women’s empowerment. Before this, they passed the resolution in Odisha assembly that they want the women’s reservation bill both for Odisha Assembly and the Parliament. Although he doesn’t have control over it because it requires a constitutional amendment. He persisted and sent a delegation to every state to convince them to pass the bill,” said Krishnaswamy.

Picture credit- Ashoke Chakraborty

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