India set to get first woman Speaker
With every side deciding to endorse her candidature, Congress candidate Meira Kumar’s election as Speaker of the 15th Lok Sabha on Wednesday is set to be unanimous. Altogether 13 sets of nominations were submitted on Tuesday by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee to Lok Sabha secretary general P D T Achary. Among those who backed her bid for the constitutional post were UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, leader of opposition L K Advani, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mukherjee led a group of UPA leaders to the secretary general’s office in a formal show of solidarity behind Kumar. Among them were Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, Lalu Prasad and E Ahmed. While Sonia’s proposal was seconded by Mukherjee, that of Advani was done by his party colleague Sushma Swaraj. Kumar, who was part of the delegation visiting the secretary general, latertermed her ascent to the Speaker’s chair as a historic moment. “It is both historic and overwhelming,” she told reporters. A five-time MP, she resigned as minister for water resources after Congress backed her for Speaker. When the Lok Sabha meets on Wednesday, Sonia, according to the agenda, will propose Kumar as the Speaker of the new House. With the Opposition deciding not to oppose her, no election is called for. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Advani will then accompany her to the Speaker’s chair completing the formality. Not originally her party’s choice, Kumar found strong support from the Congress leadership on two counts—a woman, she carries a rich Dalit legacy. Precisely for this reason, the BJP is reluctant to oppose her. For its part, the Opposition party has moved a notch up in the game of identity politics by proposing a tribal—Karia Munda—for the deputy Speaker’s post.