Odisha has set a precedent for other states in the country. Thirty three per cent of the total lawmakers elected from the state to the 17th Lok Sabha are women and Odisha is the only state to achieve the feat this time.
This comes two months after Naveen Patnaik, who took oath as the chief minister of Odisha for a record fifth term on Wednesday after securing a big election win, announced 33 per cent reservation for women in party tickets. As he took oath, he promised to continue to focus on women voters who made sure that he secured an impressive and comfortable majority. He also has said he is going to push for the passage of women's reservation bill and ensure that there are 33 percent women in parliament.
Of the total 21 lawmakers elected from Odisha in the Lok Sabha polls, five women lawmakers are from Naveen Patnaik's BJD and two are from the BJP. The BJD had fielded seven women lawmakers.
Among the women lawmakers from the BJD are Chandrani Murmu, a 25-year-old tribal girl who is also an engineer, Rajashree Mallick, a former professor of Pathology, Manjulata Mandal, a homemaker and Sarmistha Sethi, a former officer of the Odisha Financial services.
Former IAS officer Aparajita Sarangi and Sangeeta Singh Deo, a royal member of the erstwhile Patnagarh estate, are the women lawmakers from the BJP. Assembly elections were also held in the state simultaneously with the national elections held between April 11 and May 19.
The newly elected parliamentarians and legislators say this is something that the whole country should emulate.
"The BJD has already launched several policies to empower women. Schemes like Mission Shakti are a huge access. In Odisha, 48 per cent of the total voters are women. Our Chief Minister has now decided to connect to our leaders to Special Help Groups to empower women further," says Sarmistha Sethi, a former bureaucrat-turned-MP, who won the Jajpur seat.
Latika Pradhan, a newly elected BJD MLA from Kabisuryanagar, says, "Pramila Bisoyi has been elected from the Aska Lok Sabha seat. A woman member of a Self-Help Group has been elected with a margin of over two lakh votes. It is a majestic victory for a woman with a very humble background and this is how our Chief Minister is ensuring that women get maximum representation in parliament."
Naveen Patnaik's decision to hold his oath ceremony outside the Raj Bhavan in Bhubaneswar for the first time has also been significant. He took the decision after a request by thousands of women from self help groups who he calls his "extended family".
The women wanted to be a part of the swearing-in ceremony.
Shreemayee Mishra, Chairperson, Women's Cooperative Societies, told NDTV, "A group of leaders of self-help groups met chief minister to congratulate him and they requested him that they want to be a part of this ceremony. More than 2,000 women from 30 districts across the state finally attended the event."
"This was the first time so many women attended a programme like this and when women move forward along with the women," said Poornima Swain, a member of a Women's Self Help Group.
Odisha has a history of empowering women.
Naveen Patnaik's father Biju Patnaik, who served twice the state twice as the chief minister, introduced 33 per cent reservation for women in local bodies and panchayats.
Naveen Patnaik took the reservation to 50 per cent.
Eminent women like danseuse Aruna Mohanty say Odisha is teaching the country what to do when it comes to giving women tickets to fight elections.
"Definitely Odisha is setting a precedent when it comes to empowering women and we have seen the political will power to empower women. You will see more faces in the cabinet and working at the grassroots."
Naveen Patnaik's oath ceremony was also attended by his sister, Gita Mehta, a well known author and his brother Prem Patnaik.