Odisha’s ruling party, Biju Janata Dal (BJD), made history by forming Zilla Parishad in all 30 districts of the state. Interestingly, 70% of the presidents of these Panchayati raj institutions are women. “For the first time in the history of Odisha, and probably in the whole country, a single party has formed Zilla Parishad (ZP) in all districts of one state,” said the Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik.
Saraswarti Majhi, 23, has been chosen as the youngest president of Zilla Parishad. A graduate of a Bachelor of Science, she will lead development activities in the district of Rayagada. Samari Tangul, 26, from Swabhiman Anchal, has been chosen as chairwoman of Zilla Parishad in Malkangiri. Other women presidents of Zilla Parsihad include Saraswati Majhi from the remote block of Kashipur, Kumudini Nayak from the remote block of Bamra. A total of 21 women were chosen as presidents of Zilla Parishad, representing 70% of the total number of seats, even though the reserve of women is statutorily 50%. The larger districts of Mayurbhanj, Ganjam, Keonjhar, Sundargarh, Bolangir, Sambalpur and undivided Koraput districts (except Nawrangpur) are ruled by female Zilla Parishad chairpersons.
BJD held 67% of Zilla Parishad chair seats (unqualified/women) with members of the OBC community.
In her home district of Ganjam, Naveen Patnaik has selected an OBC candidate for president of Zilla Parishad.
15 out of 30 districts (50%) have a zilla parishad president under 40 years old and 23 out of 30 districts (76%) have their council president under 50 years old.
BJD leaders said the selected candidates had “relatively high educational qualifications”, with 18 district council presidents having graduated and 26 of them having completed at least 2 levels of education.
The BJD had recorded a landslide victory in the three-tier panchayat polls by winning 766 seats out of 852, held in five phases last month on February 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24, respectively.
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