CM’s 33 pc plea for women falls flat as Odisha assembly stands at bottom 10

...Only 7% women legislators in current Assembly, ....Reality check shows Odisha worse than BIMARU ....But BJD is content with campaign stunts

Bhubaneswar: Only months ahead of 2019 general elections, CM Naveen Patnaik had fanned out his MPs and ministerial colleagues to criss-cross the country to canvass for a 33 per cent reservation for women in legislatures and Parliament. But the reality that hurts is Odisha figures as the 7th poorest among 31 States in the country in the indicator of women participation in State legislatures. Only 7 per cent legislators are women in Odisha Assembly. This is a shocker for ruling BJD when it was on a winning spree since last 18-years absolutely on CM Naveen’s image.

An analytical comparison of women legislators from 2014-19 available with Election Commission of India revealed some stark facts. This revelation is certainly a thumbs down on International Women’s Day today as BIMARU states (Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) have a higher women legislators rate ranging from 9 – 14 per cent vis-a-vis 7 per cent in Odisha. A high of around 44 per cent of the Odisha assembly constituencies didn’t even have women contestants .

However, the State stands better in comparison to Kerala and Karnataka, where women participation of legislators is around 5 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.

An analysis shows  despite record turnout of women voters in the last assembly elections, even strong women candidates across the political spectrum have bitten the dust. Senior BJP leader Surama Padhy and BJD’s Hema Gamang failed to carry through as they lost to their male counterparts.

Another interesting fact is when a whopping 75 per cent women electorate voted in 2014 Odisha elections vis-a-vis a total turnout of 74 per cent; shockingly 80 per cent of the women contestants had lost even their deposits. This means four out of every five women candidates lost quite comprehensively in Odisha. The reason: Major political parties in Odisha do more of a lip-service on women empowerment but do not groom women winners.

Sample this. Despite BJD riding on CM Naveen Patnaik’s popularity, it fielded a mere 14 women on conch symbol. Mayawati’s BSP, a signboard party in Odisha, emerged the dark horse with 12 women
contestants.  Major national parties like BJP and Congress fielded only 11 and 8 women contestants in 2014 assembly elections, respectively. Though none of the women BJD candidates forfeited deposits, all of the BSP had lost deposits. This shows if ruling BJD had groomed women contestants in constituencies, the result would have shown for Odisha. The status quo persists even in upcoming 2019 polls.

Reservation could increase women’s participation in legislatures and Parliament as is evident from the fact that with 50 per cent reservations for women in Panchayats, a whopping 53,396 elected representatives of the total 1, 00,352 members are women in Odisha.

Why women matter in Assembly? Odisha since 2014-15 has remained among top – 5 States in registration of cases under Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Act (PCPNDT) in the country. Also, the State has a higher rate of women trafficking, high cases of child rapes under POCSO Act, high maternal mortality rate but hardly such pressing issues warranted a full-fledged debate in the current Assembly as male legislators are used to take up other mundane issues.