Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJD to field women in 33% Odisha seats, says CM Naveen Patnaik
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJD had fielded two women candidates - in Jajpur and Keonjhar. Later, it nominated another woman candidate from Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat after its sitting MP died. In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJD fielded 14 candidates.Updated: Mar 11, 2019 05:46 IST
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced on Sunday that his party, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD), will field women candidates in at least 33% of the 21 parliamentary seats in the state for the general elections.
Patnaik made this announcement at the ‘Mission Shakti’ convention in the politically important Kendrapara district but was silent on extending the measure to the assembly elections, which is being held simultaneously in the state.
“I would like to announce that Odisha will send 33% women to Parliament in the coming elections. It was a dream of Biju Babu [former CM and Naveen’s father Biju Patnaik] to empower women. Biju Babu showed the way to the entire nation. It is he who for the first time in India implemented 33% reservation for women in the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions and government jobs. In order to fulfil his dreams, I am making this announcement,” he said.
Patnaik called on national parties such as the Bharatiya Janata Party (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 ago, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had promised to get the Women’s Reservation Bill (108th Constitution Amendment Bill) passed in the Lok Sabha if Congress came to power.
“The women of Odisha will lead the way in women empowerment in India. If India is to lead the world, if India has to compete with countries like America and China and become advanced, then women empowerment is the only answer,” he said.
The number of women voters has increased dramatically in the past decade. In a previous article in this newspaper, Milan Vaishnav and Jamie Hinston showed that female turnout lagged male turnout by 7 to 12 percentage points in every election between 1967 and 2004, except for the 1984 election following Indira Gandhi’s assassination. By 2014, the gender gap had plummeted to 1.8 percentage points, a record low.
But the number of women elected to Parliament remains dismally low. In 2014, just 8.1% of candidates for the Lok Sabha were women – and this figure was the highest ever. Vaishnav and Hinston showed that between 1962 (the first year for which gender-specific data is available) and 1996, women did not once account for more than 5% of the candidate pool, and after a sharp growth in 1998, their numbers have seen a modest incremental rise. Female representation in the Lok Sabha is meagre and only surpassed 10% for the first time in 2009. In the outgoing Lok Sabha, women made up 11.6% of directly elected members of Parliament.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJD had fielded two women candidates - in Jajpur and Keonjhar. Later, it nominated another woman candidate from Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat after its sitting MP died. In the 2014 assembly polls, the BJD fielded 14 candidates. Patnaik’s move comes at a time when the CM is facing a massive electoral challenge from the BJP that is eyeing to win at least 7-8 Lok Sabha seats, up from one in 2014 elections.
This announcement comes two days after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also pitched for gender equality in politics, and said she was proud of the Trinamool Congress’s record of having women comprising 35% of its lawmakers in Parliament.