BHUBANESWAR: Chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday announced 50 per cent reservation of seats for women in urban local bodies (ULBs), which are scheduled to go to polls in the later part of next year. "Higher reservation for women would go a long way in empowering them," Naveen said.
The new policy for the 103 ULBs in Odisha, including corporations, municipalities, and notified area councils, comes after a similar reservation for women in the panchayat elections in February.
Though elections to the ULBs are due in the second half of 2013, Naveen making the announcement now has raised eyebrows, especially in the backdrop of the growing perception that BJD in the post-Pyarimohan Mohapatra era has been reduced to a divided house. Naveen in a bid to marginalize Mohapatra had recently suspended him from the party after leveling charges that he had hatched a conspiracy to overthrow him.
In the 2008, the BJD out of 96 civic bodies that went to polls had captured 51, followed by BJP 20, Congress 15, independents 8 and Samajwadi party 2. Elections in seven other civic bodies were not held then. Though BJP was then in the government as a coalition partner with BJD, both the parties fought the elections separately.
Now that the ruling party has been passing through intense internal bickering, speculation is rife that it might face severe problem in retaining its past position. "Women empowerment is a facade. The chief minister has announced the increase in seats for women solely with an eye on the elections. He is going to bite the dust very soon," remarked BJP state president Jual Oram. Ashima Mahananda of Congress echoed the view. "Other states have already done similar reservations for women. Odisha government rather woke up late," she said.
Senior BJD leader and minister S N Patro, however, rubbished the opposition speculation. "BJD's popularity remains intact. Neither the opposition nor any individual can erode it," Patro said.