The ruling party in Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal, became the first political party in the country to announce that it will provide a quota of 33 per cent to women candidates in the ensuing Lok Sabha polls. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the BJD’s decision to field 33% women candidates in the 21 Lok Sabha seats in Odisha in the coming elections and called upon all the national parties to follow suit.

“I call upon all the National Parties that they should be true to their words, and must follow what they are propagating for women empowerment,” he said.

Playing the women card to the hilt, the chief minister said, “This announcement at Kendrapara, the sacred land of Lord Baladevjew, will create history in the journey of women empowerment in India.” He also invoked the legendary Biju Patnaik saying the announcement at the ‘Karma Bhumi’ of Biju Babu that Odisha will send 33 per cent of women to Parliament in the coming Lok Sabha election is befitting as it was Biju Babu who was the first to introduce reservation for women in panchayats, much before the Constitutional amendment in this regard.

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Patnaik, while addressing a rally of Women SHG group members of Mission Shakti at Baruo on the outskirts of Kendrapara town, noted that he was leading the country in sending women to parliament. “Late Biju Babu had shown the way to the entire nation by enforcing 33 per cent reservation for women in three-tier gram panchayat bodies and urban local bodies when he was the chief minister of the state in the nineties,” Patnaik recalled.

In 2012, he said, the state government had enhanced it to 50 per cent in panchayati raj institutions. “Taking the move forward, the state government, for the first time, had passed a resolution in Odisha Legislative Assembly to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in both the parliament and state legislatures. I have sent a proposal to all national parties and chief ministers in this regard,” said the CM, adding: “If India is to lead the world, and if India is to be an advanced nation like America and China, then women empowerment is the only answer, he said. Patnaik had earlier set in motion the nationwide campaign on Women’s reservation bill in parliament and State Assemblies in the last phase of parliament though the matter had been debated for years.”

Opposition Congress and BJP were quick to lash out at what they termed a “political gimmick”. OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik pointed out that Naveen Patnaik had never uttered a word on the Women Reservation Bill all these years and was indulging in such stunts just before the elections.

BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: “Why didn’t he include the assembly tickets also, clearly it is double speak of the CM.” He went on to refer to the rising crime against women in Odisha with the chief minister holding the home portfolio.