New Delhi: The Biju Janata Dal-led Odisha government adopted a resolution proposing 33% reservation for women in parliament and the assemblies. Although the women’s reservation Bill or the Constitution (108th amendment) Bill is pending before parliament, the Odisha government’s initiative is likely to initiate renewed dialogue on the issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, before it came to power at the Centre, had promised to implement the Bill. However, the Narendra Modi government buried the issue even as it selectively publicised issues of women’s rights, varying from triple talaq to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.
It is in this political context that chief minister Naveen Patnaik, while introducing the resolution in the assembly, said, “New Odisha will move forward with much greater momentum, only if half of our population, our mothers and daughters have a role in the highest decision making bodies of our state and our country. Odisha must show its commitment and its resolve to the entire nation that it is the land where women are truly empowered and truly involved in nation building.”
“From Malkangiri to Sundergarh, we witness the new Odisha. An Odisha with lakhs of Mamata Padhiamis and Jayanti Ekkas,” said the chief minister. “This bold, aspirational and new Odisha has voices — voices which must be heard across panchayats, legislative assemblies and the parliament.”
He also highlighted some of the successful schemes that his government introduced for women.
My Government has been working for empowerment of women. Historic initiatives like @mission_shakti, MAMATA, girls’ education, loans at 1% interest, hostels for 5 lakh tribal girls, ₹ 7 lakh under BSKY, land rights have transformed the lives of millions of women
— Naveen Patnaik (@Naveen_Odisha) November 20, 2018
The chief minister’s decision to move the resolution comes months ahead of assembly and parliamentary polls in 2019. Political observers in the state believe that this may help Patnaik put up a solid opposition to BJP’s rising fortunes in the state.
“Patnaik is now frequently talking about ‘New Odisha’, on similar lines of Modi’s ‘New India’. While doing so, he is offering a strong welfarist vision for Odisha as opposed to an entirely market-driven economic model to counter the BJP. Drawing from his Bengal counterpart, Mamata Banerjee, he is also invoking Odia pride, irrespective of caste and religious affiliations,” a senior journalist in Bhubaneswar, who preferred not to be named, told The Wire.
What is clear is that Patnaik is positioning himself in an ideological space that is different from both the BJP and the Congress. Until now, this appears to be working.
Both the Congress and the BJP termed the state government’s move a mere election stunt as only parliament can pass such a Bill. However, both were forced to support the proposal.
Patnaik, too, responded to this quite positively. “Today is a historic day. The members of the assembly have unanimously passed a resolution giving 33% reservation to women in the assemblies and the parliament. This will empower the women of our state to a great extent,” he told reporters.
He also reminded the press that it was his father and former chief minister Biju Patnaik who, in 1992, had implemented 33% reservation for women in local bodies. In 2011, the current chief minister raised it to 50%. The real figure of women’s representation in local bodies is much more than 50%, the BJD chief said.