1. Home
  2. English
  3. No Consensus on Speaker’s Post, Contest Likely
No Consensus on Speaker’s Post, Contest Likely

No Consensus on Speaker’s Post, Contest Likely

Social Share

Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 25: For the first time in decades, the election for the post of the Lok Sabha speaker will see a contest between the ruling NDA and the opposition INDIA bloc on Wednesday, despite a last-minute conflict between the Congress and the Trinamool Congress over the choice of the nominee, after the BJP refused to concede the demand for deputy speaker’s post to the opposition.

Traditionally, the speaker and deputy speaker are elected unopposed to maintain the decorum of the House. While the post of the speaker, arguably one of the most important in a parliamentary democracy as he rules over the entire parliament complex, is taken by the ruling party, the deputy speaker is normally elected from the opposition benches to maintain the balance in the Lok Sabha.

The tradition, however, was broken since the BJP came to power in 2014 as the number in the opposition benches dwindle and it lost all bargaining capacity. But though in the 2024 elections, the opposition has returned with good numbers, the BJP has refused to concede the opposition demand for the deputy speaker’s post. The senior BJP minister Piyush Goyal also refuted the opposition claims and said there was no such tradition that the deputy speaker’s post should go to the opposition.

The post of deputy speaker remained vacant all through the second Modi government (2019-2024), but in the first (2014-2019), it was awarded to an ally of the ruling BJP – the AIADMK’s M Thambidurai held the position.

The election – scheduled for 11 am on Wednesday – will see the BJP’s Om Birla, a three-time MP from Kota in Rajasthan, up against the Congress’ Kodikunnil Suresh, an eight-term parliamentarian from Kerala’s Mavelikara. Mr Suresh is the longest-serving parliamentarian in the 18th Lok Sabha. Both Mr Birla, who was the also the speaker in the last House, and Mr Suresh filed their nominations on Tuesday.

Mr Birla is almost certain to win given the BJP-led alliance’s majority; the Lok Sabha Speaker is elected by a simple majority of MPs voting and the ruling coalition can call on 293 votes to the INDIA bloc’s 232. But the opposition bloc has decided to put up its candidate as a protest against the ruling alliance refusing to honour the “healthy tradition.”

After filing his papers Mr Suresh told the press, “This is the party’s decision… not mine. There is a convention… that Deputy Speaker will be from the opposition. But they (the BJP) are not ready to do this. We were waiting till 11.50 am… but there was no response. So we filed the nomination.”

There was much drama on Tuesday morning – ahead of the noon deadline to file nominations – as the BJP sought the opposition’s consensus over the re-appointment of Mr Birla as the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju were so tasked. Mr Singh and Mr Rijiju met INDIA bloc leaders, including the Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge, and were told consensus relied on the opposition getting the Deputy Speaker’s post.

The meeting did not go as the BJP may have hoped. The opposition said it stood ready to support Mr Birla’s candidature but only providing it was given the deputy’s post. But the BJP was not forthcoming on this demand, it wanted an immediate consensus for Mr Birla and leaving a decision on his deputy to be taken later and accused the opposition of playing “pressure politics.”

The opposition, however, refused to play ball and, as the clock ticked down to the noon deadline, whispers emerged that the Congress’ K Suresh would be offered as an alternative to Om Birla.

Sources said the Congress’ KC Venugopal and TR Baalu of Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK insisted on a commitment from the BJP – one to the effect the Deputy Speaker would be an opposition MP. The same sources – who also said the BJP had indicated its unwillingness to offer such an assurance – blamed the opposition’s “lack of commitment led to a failure of consensus.”

The last minute decision of the Congress to field Mr Suresh as the opposition candidate without consulting other parties, however, created a rift in the INDIA bloc with the TMC resenting the “unilateral” nomination of Mr Suresh. The party sources said the senior leaders of the party would take a decision by late Tuesday evening the party’s response to the development.

Congress sources said it was a last-minute decision — that they had to take a call 10 minutes before the noon deadline and no consultation could be held for obvious reasons.

Senior Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay said the party was not consulted. “I saw on TV and came to know… Derek O’Brien came and asked me and I said there has been no discussion,” he said. “The Congress must explain. It (the reason) is best known to them,” he said.

Asked whether Trinamool will consider supporting Mr Suresh, he said, “We will have a meeting and discuss and our leader will take a call… it is a party decision.”

Efforts are already on to patch up the situation. Mr Suresh, who will be contesting against Mr Om Birla, has reached out to the Trinamool Congress and sought their support, sources said. Congress’s Rahul Gandhi has also met Trinamool’s second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee to explain the sudden decision to contest. Mr Banerjee was seen with Mr Rahul Gandhi inside Parliament engaged in a private discussion.

The Union Aviation Minister Ram Mohan Naidu, who belonged to the Telegu Desam Party (TDP), has criticised the opposition for placing conditions, telling reporters, “Democracy does not work on conditions… NDA did what it could to build consensus for the Speaker’s post. When it was their turn (the opposition’s) to help… they put up a condition. This was never a convention to support Speaker…They want to do politics in this too.”

Earlier, while the INDIA bloc was waiting on the BJP’s response, Mr Gandhi referred to reports quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling on the opposition to work “constructively” with his government. “Today newspapers reported that PM Modi said the opposition should cooperate constructively. Rajnath Singh called Mallikarjun Kharge and asked him to extend support… entire opposition said we will support but convention is Deputy Speaker should be from our side. Rajnath Singh said he would call back… but he has not yet…PM is asking for cooperation but our leader is getting insulted…”

Earlier in the day Mr Gandhi told reporters that the Opposition would support the government on Lok Sabha Speaker choice provided the Deputy Speaker’s post was given to them. The Congress and DMK representatives later walked out of a meeting called by Mr Rajnath Singh ruling out a consensual candidate for the post.



Your email address will not be published.

Join our WhatsApp Channel

And stay informed with the latest news and updates.

Join Now
revoi whats app qr code