From Wednesday, the Lok Sabha will frequently hear the term “Madame Speaker” with 64-year-old diplomat-turned-politician Meira Kumar all set to get unanimously elected as the first woman presiding officer of the Lok Sabha.
“It is a historic moment,” Kumar said after the nomination papers were filed for her candidature, which will get the final seal of approval in the House on Wednesday. “It is a very overwhelming moment for me.”
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi proposed Kumar’s candidature and leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee seconded it in the first set of nomination papers. In all, 14 sets of papers were filed for Kumar.
Elected for a fifth term to the Lok Sabha, the Dalit MP from Sasaram said leaders of all parties had proposed her name for the “august post”.
Though the Left is supporting Kumar’s candidature, it is not among the signatories. Nor is the TDP.
“We were not approached,” said CPM’s Basudeb Acharia. “We were ready to sign.”
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said, “By the time we could go and get their signatures, the time for submitting the nomination papers was over.” He expressed his “gratitude” to the entire House for backing Kumar.
The Congress had sprung a surprise by deciding on Kumar’s candidature last week. The move was seen as part of its efforts to counter the BSP’s Mayawati, to give a boost to the party in Bihar and among its Dalit constituents across the country, and to create history by anointing a woman and a Dalit to the constitutional post.
Two days after she was sworn in as cabinet minister, Kumar resigned to gear up for the new assignment. The daughter of former deputy PM late Jagjivan Ram, she had quit the Indian Foreign Service in 1985 to join politics.
Kumar’s nomination played a major role in the BJP parliamentary board choosing Karia Munda, a tribal leader from Jharkhand, as its nominee for the deputy Speaker’s post on Tuesday. In keeping with convention, the Congress had offered the post to the opposition.
With the BJP seeking to match the Congress’s choice of a Dalit for the Speaker’s post, six-time MP Munda emerged as the front-runner.
The party also tried to emphasise his qualification for the job. “It is true that Munda belongs to the ST community but along with that he has vast legislative experience and this decision was made considering his seniority,” said BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley.
Munda was a minister in the Morarji Desai government and later in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee ministry.
He will take on his new role after Kumar becomes Speaker and notifies the date of election of the deputy Speaker.
The 14 sets of nomination papers for Kumar were signed by various leaders including leader of the opposition L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj (BJP), UPA allies such as the NCP’s Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, leaders of supporting parties such as Lalu Prasad (RJD) and Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) and the BJD’s A.C. Sethi and B. Mahtab.
The BSP and the JD(U) also endorsed Kumar’s candidature.