Women leadership in Odisha politics

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The 1971 Odisha assembly elections.

Strange things often happen in political history. Not a single woman MLA was elected in the 1971 Odisha assembly elections. Then Mrs. Nandini Satpathi became the leader of the house in that same assembly. From 1972 to 1976, Nandini Devi was the first and last woman Chief Minister of Odisha. Politically, women’s leadership has always been ignored in Odisha. Apart from Nandini Satpathi, no other woman politician has reached the top position of power in Odisha. There is nothing more than this to prove that feudalism and patriarchy are more effective in the social and political life of Odisha.

The formation of a separate Odisha state in 1936

After the formation of a separate Odisha state in 1936 on the basis of language, until 1947, not a single Odisha woman was elected to the Odisha Assembly. Although there were many women fighters in the freedom movement as Congress workers then, they did not get a chance in electoral politics. From 1952 to 1990, never ever more than 10 candidates were elected to the Odisha Assembly. Since the formation of Odisha, we have not had more than 15 women members in any assembly. (Including the women candidates who won various by-elections in the current assembly, this number has reached 17.) Since independence, 3 in 1952, 5 in 1957, 4 in 1961, 5 in 1967, 1 in 1971, 4 in 1974, 7 in 1977, 5 in 1980, 8 in 1985 , 9 in 1990, 10 in 1995, 14 in 2000, 11  in 2004, 6  in 2009, 10  in 2014 and 17 in 2019 woman MLAs have been elected.

In the 1990s

Biju Patnaik’s government started the path breaking empowerment projects through women reservation in Panchayats to ensure more and more women participation in the grassroots politics.   Although the participation of Odia women in politics has increased since then, it has not reached an encouraging level even today.

While the election of women to the assembly is limited, the number of women in the various cabinets of Odisha is negligible. We have seen only one or two women ministers in various ministries. After many a years now Naveen Patnaik’s cabinet has 3 cabinet members and 2 state ministers with independent charge.

The situation may be improving over time, but the social correction of the historical neglect of women should not be so slow. Politically, more power in the hands of women is the greatest need of the hour. In that order we have to think about –

  • In1976, after Nandini Devi, why did we fail to create a significant ranks and files of women leadership across the party lines?
  • Historically Nandini Satpathi was the most powerful personality in our politics. Could we ever properly evaluate her contribution and historically placed her leadership and personality in the right perspective?
  • Even today, no woman officer in Odisha administration has got the opportunity to become Chief Secretary or Director General of Police.
  • Why the male hegemony is still dominant in policies, laws and planning?
  • Why is the number of women judges in the Odisha High Court just five in all these years?
  • In the 2019 general elections Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik gave 33% representation to women in the Lok Sabha. When will it be implemented in the assembly elections?
  • BJD has repeatedly demanded to bring the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Parliament. A special proposal has also been introduced in the Odisha Legislative Assembly regarding this. Will this proposal be implemented to ensure and at least 33% representation of women in the assembly and state cabinet be ensured?
  • When will there be more female leadership in the police and courts?
  • Women’s empowerment should not be limited to upper castes and upper castes. That must be inclusive and must trickle down to the last line of the society by bringing more tribal and dalit women to leadership position.

               ALSO READ :https://interviewtimes.net/lgbt-pride-diversity-equality-equity-and-inclusion-in-the-workplace/

  STORY BY : Kedar Mishra

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