Pradeep Pattanayak

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD), which created a ripple in the 2019 elections by fielding 33 per cent women candidates including SHG leader Pramila Bisoi from the Aska Lok Sabha seat, is comparatively off the mark in women representation in the number of candidates announced so far. 

At a time when the conch party is yet to announce its candidates for six Lok Sabha and 75 Assembly seats, it has so far given tickets to only 16 per cent women including an SHG member, leading the political pundits to conjecture that the party’s women vote bank may be under threat. 

So far, the party has given ticket to only one SHG member-Sujata Sahu of the Jajpur district. This is said to be the reason for resentment among SHG women members across the State.

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 “The party has fielded the wives of Nabarangpur MLA Sadasiva Pradhani and Subash Gond, who was defeated by BJP’s Nityananda Gond in 2019 elections. Instead of them, why SHG members weren’t given tickets? Are they not capable enough to contest elections?” asked Surabhi Pani, president of the Mother Teresa Federation, Jeypore. 

“All of us have a desire to go to either the Odisha Assembly or the Lok Sabha. But no such things are discussed,” said Saraswati Nanda, president of Bijaylaxmi SHG, Nilagiri. 

“If women are brought into politics, they will definitely perform well in serving people,” observed Sujata Sahu, the BJD candidate for the Jajpur Assembly seat. 

So far, the party has fielded three women in Lok Sabha and 12 in Assembly seats. In 2019, it had given tickets to 33 per cent women in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. This time, the party has so far announced names of 72 candidates for Assembly seats and of them, 16 per cent are women. 

Meanwhile, the BJP has come up with a strategy ‘Shakti Sathi Mission’ to pull the BJD’s woman vote bank to pieces. 

“As they are talking about women empowerment, we thought more SHG members would have been fielded. Instead of laying emphasis on SHG members, they have relied more on their established leaders who are facing anti-incumbency,” said BJP leader, Manoj Mohapatra. 
When contacted BJD MLA Parshuram Dhada said, “Candidates for more than 75 Assembly seats are yet to be announced. So, we will discuss the issue once candidates for all the seats are announced.”