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Odisha: BJD forms Zilla Parishads in all 30 districts

21 of the 30 ZPs to be headed by women
Odisha: BJD forms Zilla Parishads in all 30 districts
Odisha: BJD forms Zilla Parishads in all 30 districts

ITDC INDIA EPRESS/ITDC NEWS R  Creating history in Odisha, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has formed Zilla Parishads in all the 30 districts where its candidates have become presidents after the rural elections. BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who had given one-third of the party tickets to women candidates in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, has this time given 70 per cent of Zilla Parishad president posts to women, even though the women reservation is 50 per cent.

Saraswati Majhi, a 23-year-old tribal woman from remote Kashipur block, is the youngest president who will head naxal-prone Rayagada district in south Odisha.

The ruling party claims Patnaik has chosen young, educated and talented party workers as Zilla Parishad presidents with a long-term strategic view to mentor them for leadership positions.

The Zilla Parishad election was held on party symbol basis unlike elections to gram panchayat and panchayat samitis. The BJD swept the rural polls, decimating both the BJP and the Congress. Out of the 852 Zilla Parishad member posts in 30 districts, the BJD got 762 whereas the BJP could win 76 seats and the Congress 38. Out of the 314 panchayat samitis (blocks), the BJD has won the post of chairperson in 278 blocks while the BJP and the Congress have won 21 and 13 blocks respectively. In the gram panchayat elections, the BJP had no presence in 17 districts while the Congress had no presence in 22 districts.

In 2017 Zilla Parishad election, the BJD had got 20 districts where as the BJP had won eight and the Congress two. That time, the BJD had won 476 Zilla Parishad member seats whereas the BJP had won 297.

This time, the BJD had taken a new approach while selecting presidents for Zilla Parishads. The average age of presidents is 41 years. Continuing his focus on the remote area, the chief minister selected Samarai Tangul of Swabhiman Anchal as Zill Parishad president of Malkangiri district, an underdeveloped tribal district of south Odisha with decades-long history of Maoist violence. Swabhiman Anchal was a cut off island in Balimela dam which was later connected with the mainland by Gurupriya bridge. Earlier, Maoists had used this area as a hideout.

Samarai is 26-years-old and has studied till Plus Two. Eighteen Zilla Parishad presidents are graduates while 26 have completed at least Plus Two. Half of the presidents are below 40 while 23 presidents are below 50. While selecting the Zilla Parishad presidents, the chief minister had focused on their educational qualification and clean record with good public reputation.

Among the 30 Zilla Parishad presidents, 21 are women. This is the first time such large number of women are heading districts in Odisha. The BJD claims this is perhaps unprecedented in the country. Larger districts of Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar and Sundergarh—which were not bifurcated during district reorganisation in 1990s—and western and southern districts of Sambalpur, Bolangir, Koraput, Raygada and Malkangiri all have women presidents.

Out of the 18 unreserved seats (including women), 12 OBC candidates (67%) have been made Zilla Parishad presidents. In his home district of Ganjam, too, the chief minister has selected an OBC candidate as Zilla Parishad president.

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