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Meira Kumar becomes first LS Speaker

The 64-year-old Dalit leader was elected unanimously after a resolution moved by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and seconded by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee was approved by a voice vote amidst thumping of desks by the entire House.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2009 20:51 IST

History was scripted on Wednesday as senior Congress leader Meira Kumar was unanimously elected as Lok Sabha Speaker to become the first woman to hold the top Constitutional post.

The 64-year-old Dalit leader was elected after a resolution moved by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and seconded by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee was approved by a voice vote amidst thumping of desks by the entire House.

Earlier, leaders cutting across the political spectrum, including Leader of Opposition L K Advani, Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), T R Baalu (DMK), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad (RJD), Ram Sundar Das (JD-U), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Farooq Abdullah (NC) and E Ahamed (Muslim League) also tabled their motions proposing Kumar's name for the post.

The assumption of office by Kumar, a former IFS officer and Union Minister, was hailed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with Advani and leaders of other parties, who hoped that she would ensure smooth functioning of the House.

Singh hailed the election of the MP from Sasaram in Bihar as a historic moment and said her services as a distinguished diplomat, 25 years in Parliament and her role as a Minister would stand her in good stead to execute her onerous job well.

Accepting the honour, Kumar vowed that she would leave no stone unturned in maintaining the dignity of the House and its members.

Recalling his association with Kumar's father, late Jagjivan Ram, the Prime Minister said she was an "embodiment" of the same qualities of "wisdom, knowledge and experience".

Singh assured her his government's fullest cooperation in discharge of her duties.

Advani, while hailing Kumar's election, expressed confidence that her experience in public life would help her serve as Speaker in an efficient manner and 15th Lok Sabha would run smoothly.

Accepting with humility and gratefulness the honour bestowed on her, Meira Kumar said it would be her principal duty to conduct the Lok Sabha in keeping with the Constitution, rules and traditions.

She said the assumption of the office of Speaker by a woman was a "historic" occasion in the 57 years of Parliament and it has come at a time when the Lok Sabha has a record number of women members.

Noting that she was aware of successful tenures of her predecessors from Ganesh Vasudev Mavlankar to Somnath Chatterjee, the Speaker said they had worked to promote the dignity of the post and that she would continue the search for better methods.

"I assure the House that I will pay full attention to all sections of the House. I also assure you that neither I will be biased against the Opposition nor I will give any opportunity for the Treasury benches to complain," she said.

With disruptions and acrimony witnessed in the previous House apparently weighing on her mind, Kumar said the members had the responsibility to raise issues concerning people.

"We should discuss and debate and if need be we should express differences but in a gentle manner without affecting the working of the House," the new Speaker said.

Seeking to disapprove of attempts to disrupt Parliament, she observed that no citizen would ever like that the working of the House should be disrupted while raising any issue concerning him.

"There have been different methods to raise public issues and problems and if we use them effectively, then we can turn the House into an appropriate forum for debates and discussions," she said.

She said the "competence" of a member would depend upon how efficiently he or she raises issues without disrupting the proceedings.

"Disrupting of the work of Parliament does not allow the review of the work of government, its omissions and commissions by Parliament and the principles of democracy demand that this should not happen," Kumar said.

She said people were seeking good governance from MPs, whether they are on the ruling side or in the opposition.

"We must give them (people) good governance... People are looking at you (members) with high hopes and I am confident that you would make all efforts to make their lives better," Kumar said.

Kumar said the youth understood the value of their votes. "We have to give priority to the aspirations of young India. We have to do it in the earliest as the youth is impatient, which should also be the case."

She said while the young, newly-elected MPs should be encouraged, the political veterans should teach the new ones the traditions and "democratic conduct".

"I would like all respected members of the House to be regular in their attendance," she added.

Kumar pointed that the number of women MPs -- 58 -- was the maximum so far in the Lower House. "This highlights the fact that the Indian woman cannot wait any longer to set herself free from the bondages of the society and seek equal share on the path of development."

"We sent a good signal to every nook and corner of the country when two years ago we elected the first woman President. Today by electing the first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha we have once again proved that we not only support empowerment of women but are also committed towards implementing it at the grass-roots level."

She said the members should now "forget the heat and dust of elections and focus on social and economic issues facing the country."

Kumar also thanked Protem Speaker Manikrao Gavit for conducting the business of the House efficiently in the last three days.

First Published: Jun 03, 2009 11:22 IST