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Speaker from BJP Ranks Likely

Speaker from BJP Ranks Likely

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 17: The stage is all set for the BJP to get the office of the speaker of the Lok Sabha with the party’s both the principle allies virtually giving up the claims for the post and agreeing to go by the decision of the saffron party.

The BJP, which has refused to succumb to the pressures of its NDA partners Telegu Desam Party (TDP) and the Janata Dal (United), whose support was necessary for forming the Modi 3.0 government after the BJP fell short of 32 seats to majority on its own, is also believed to be eying the office of the speaker which becomes vital at times of governmental crisis.

During the counting of the votes earlier this month, the TDP and the JD(U) has been flexing muscles to get some plump ministerial berths and the post of the speaker as it became clear that the BJP would have to depend on these two parties, which together have 28 seats in the Lok Sabha, to form a government.

The BJP leadership, however, adopted a total opposite stand. The BJP apparently told the alliance partners that it would accept their support on their own terms or would not form government. Since it would not be easy for the opposition INDIA bloc to muster a majority even with the support of go these two parties, the only option would be another round of Lok Sabha elections. The BJP leadership believed that in case of a fresh election, the BJP would improve its tally and the chances of the party crossing 300 seats would be very bright.

The BJP’s confidence was reflected in the formation of the Modi 3.0 cabinet where the saffron party bot only refused all key portfolios to the NDA partners, but also limited the number of ministerial berths offered to them, just about 10 and most of them junior ministers, in the 72-member cabinet, all the remaining coming from the BJP ranks.

The party is carrying the same confidence in selecting the post of the speaker the elections for which is scheduled to be held on June 26. The BJP sources said on Monday that the wanted to retain the post of the speaker for the 18th Lok Sabha. The sources said the party might offer to its National Democratic Alliance (NDA) partners the post of Deputy Speaker, which traditionally used to go to the opposition, but was scrapped in the last two Lok Sabha as no party could win enough seats to get the status of recognised opposition. However, in the 18th Lok Sabha, the Congress with 99 seats become the recognised opposition and leader the INDIA bloc.

Union Defence Minister and senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh has been entrusted with the task of holding talks with NDA allies, including JD-U and TDP for the pivotal parliamentary role that facilitates the smooth conduct of proceedings.

The Lok Sabha will elect its new Speaker on June 26 for which notices for motions supporting candidates can be submitted till noon a day prior, according to the Lok Sabha secretariat. Sources had said the INDIA bloc might field a candidate for the post of Speaker if the Deputy Speaker’s post is not given to their camp.

Rejecting reports suggesting that NDA partners — TDP and JD(U) — had demanded the Speaker’s post, a senior BJP leader said the matter would be first considered internally before discussing it with allies to reach a consensus. While the TDP said the NDA partners must finalise a consensus candidate, the JD(U) has handed over the right to the major partner, the BJP. The JD(U) general secretary KC Tyagi said it would back the BJP’s decision. He said his party and TDP were part of the NDA and would support the candidate nominated by BJP for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker.

“The Speaker is always of the ruling party because its number is also the highest (among alliance parties),” Tyagi said. Meanwhile, TDP national spokesperson Pattabhi Ram Kommareddy was quoted as saying that the candidate must be jointly decided by NDA partners. “The NDA partners will sit together and decide who our candidate for the Speaker is going to be. Once a consensus is reached, we will field that candidate and all partners, including the TDP, will support the candidate,” Kommareddy said.

The sources said the ruling party was likely to name the Speaker only on June 26, the day of the elections. Sources said several names are doing the rounds, including Om Birla, who was the Speaker in the last term. Besides, Bhatruhari Mahtab and D Purandeshwari — leaders from the two states that top the BJP’s ‘thank you list’ — are also in the running, sources said.

Mr Mahtab is a key Odisha leader who joined the BJP from Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal. Ms Purandeshwari is the chief of the party’s Andhra Pradesh unit. Both are states where the BJP achieved spectacular results in the Lok Sabha elections.




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