Smriti Irani gets front-row seat in Lok Sabha, to sit among PM Modi, Amit Shah
Union minister of women and child development Smriti Irani, a first-time member of the Lok Sabha, has been allotted a coveted front-row seat in the Lok Sabha, which has witnessed among the biggest changes in terms of seating arrangement with six parliamentarians who were front benchers in the last LS not returning to the house.
Irani, a senior minister of the NDA government, defeated Rahul Gandhi from his family bastion of Amethi in one of the most hotly-contested battles in the recent national election. A two-time Rajya Sabha member, Irani has also held portfolios such as human resource development, information and broadcasting and textiles in the first Modi government.
Speaker Om Birla on Tuesday approved the seating arrangement in the new Lok Sabha after different parties provided him with inputs and preferences.
Apart from PM Narendra Modi, defence minister Rajnath Singh and home minister Amit Shah, transport minister Nitin Gadkari, rural development minister Narendra Singh Tomar, chemical and fertilisers minister Sadananda Gowda, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, tribal affairs minister Arjun Munda and HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal will also be in the frontrow. From the NDA’s allies, Shiv Sena MP and heavy industries minister Arvind Sawant has been allotted a prime seat. With Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), a key ally, not keen on a ministerial berth in the Modi cabinet, senior JD(U) leader Rajiv Ranjan Singh will sit in the front row, next to Sawant.
Former Prime Minister HD Devegowda, former foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Congress’ floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge and BJP patriarchs LK Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi are among the leaders who will be missing from the front row. While Advani, Joshi and Swaraj retired from electoral politics, Gowda and Kharge lost the election. AIADMK leader M Thambidurai, the deputy speaker in the 16th Lok Sabha and another frontbencher, also lost his slot.
The NDA’s share in the front row, the seats closest to the Speaker’s chair, has increased marginally. The Congress’ quota is stuck at two as the party won 52 seats, just 8 more than its earlier tally. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party’s floor leader Adhir Chowdhury (a five-term MP) have been given front-row seats while former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has an aisle seat in the second row.
Among the opposition parties, Trinamool Congress’ floor leader and senior parliamentarian Sudip Bandopadhyay has retained his front row seat but the Biju Janata Dal, assigned a frontrow seat in the last Lok Sabha, has been given a second row seat for its floor leader Pinaki Misra. BJD’s strength in the house reduced to 12 MPs from 20 in the last Lok Sabha. Samajwadi Party veteran Mulayam Singh Yadav and DMK’s TR Balu will also sit in the front row.
Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YRSCP has been allotted a front row seat after the regional outfit swept Andhra Pradesh and won 22 seats. PV Midhun Reddy will lead the party on the floor of the house and sit in the front row, next to Sudip Bandopadhyay.
The seating arrangement took some time to finalise as the Speaker’s office was flooded with requests and some parties were keen to get specific seats. In the absence of assigned seats—that also come with division numbers for each MP—the House saw voting through paper ballots on a few occasions during the passage of bills. Now, with seats being notified, the House will resume electronic voting when a division is required.