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Hear us, Speaker

india Updated: Jun 17, 2009 22:45 IST

Loyalty comes in many forms. The latest comes in the shape of the Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha. Congresswoman Meira Kumar is not keen at all to relinquish her party membership during her tenure as Speaker. Ms Kumar is not only a loyal and strong-willed lady then, but a brave one too. All she has to do to figure out that there may be a problem with her double-identity is look at what happened to her immediate predecessor.

Somnath Chatterjee, who remained a CPI(M) member for four years of his tenure as Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha, actually ended up having a tiff with his party, which took it for granted that he was ‘still one of the boys’ when it came to being on the list of communist MPs withdrawing support from the UPA government last year. This week, Mr Chatterjee denied that he had “rendered advice” to Ms Kumar regarding quitting the Congress during her tenure as Speaker, but added that he believed that such a convention — a partyless Speaker — should be introduced.

Perhaps Mr Chatterjee’s the best person to know the partisan pulls of being a Speaker with a party membership. Perhaps he isn’t. And certainly no one wants to suggest that Ms Kumar will be biased towards, or against, the Congress in the House. But politics being also the art of perception, one does wonder whether an unnecessary flank for attack is exposed if the Speaker retains her party membership. Our advice to Madam Speaker would be: relinquish your Congress membership for the duration of your non-partisan job. No one in the right place will doubt your fealty anyway. After your tenure is over...