India could get its first woman speaker
The Congress appeared set on Saturday to provide the first woman Lok Sabha Speaker to the country.
Meira Kumar, a prominent Dalit leader, seemed to have emerged as the frontrunner for the post in a dramatic turn of events.
A week after she was sworn in as cabinet minister and a day after she took charge of the water resources ministry, the Congress leadership, in a surprise move, was set to put the 64-year-old in the important chair.
In keeping with the tradition of having the deputy speaker from the opposition, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have spoken to leader of the opposition L.K. Advani and offered the post to his party.
Daughter of Dalit leader, the late Jagjivan Ram, Kumar quit the Indian Foreign Services in 1985 to join politics. A five-time Lok Sabha MP, she had resigned from the Congress in 2000 citing differences with party president Sonia Gandhi. She rejoined the party two years later.
The Congress leadership, at its core committee meeting on Saturday, is learnt to have discussed the names of possible choices for the Speaker’s post.
Kumar, Girija Vyas and Kishore Chandra Deo were the names under consideration.
Deo, who was tipped to be the Congress candidate for Speaker’s post till Saturday evening, could now be accommodated in the council of ministers in place of Kumar.
The Congress is likely to project Kumar’s election as Speaker as a “historic step.”
“By making Kumar the candidate for the Speaker’s post, the Congress will be able to send a strong political message of giving importance to Dalits and women,” said a party leader.
It will also hope to counter BSP chief Mayawati’s growing influence.
The Congress is also hoping for fewer disruptions in the House by choosing a woman to conduct the proceedings, since it would be difficult for the opposition to resort to unruly behaviour in the changed scenario.