Cong’s aggressive push for Speaker’s election ends up showing ‘schism’ in INDIA bloc

New Delhi: The 18th Lok Sabha has begun on a not-so-healthy note.

For the first time in the history of Independent India, the Congress and some of its allies have taken a confrontationist path in the election of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha by deciding to field an Opposition candidate for the post.

A direct contest for the Speaker’s post between the candidates of the ruling alliance and the Opposition bloc has not been witnessed in the last 75 years since the time of Independence because the Speaker’s chair is a bi-partisan Constitutional post who not only has the responsibility to run the House as per the rules and established norms, but is also the protector of the rights and duties of all members of the House, irrespective of their political affiliations.

There has so far been a general unanimity that the beginning of a new term of the Lok Sabha shouldn’t be on a sour note, with an open proclamation of distrust against the person nominated by the ruling dispensation as the candidate for the Speaker’s post.

This is thus no ordinary decision of the Congress to field its MP from Kerala, K. Suresh, as the candidate of the Opposition bloc. It implies two things. First, the Congress and its allies in the Opposition believe that they need to be in maximum aggression mode right from day one and do everything possible to counter any move made from the government’s side.

Secondly, this means even as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Congress President and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge thrice on the issue, there was practically a breakdown in communication between the government and the Opposition even before the newly-elected members of Lok Sabha were sworn-in.

The Parliament this time may see far more disruptions and noisy scenes in both the Houses than in the past.

It should be noted that last week, Congress spokesperson Supriya Srinate was quoted as saying: “I can tell you one thing – fasten your seat belts because the temperature of the House is going to rise tremendously. Now the House will not be run dictatorially as was done earlier.”

The BJP, after rounds of consultations with its NDA allies, has decided to go for continuity by reposing faith in Om Birla whom it nominated for the Speaker’s post for a second consecutive term.

In the previous Lok Sabha, Birla was perceived to have run the House well even as the Congress on some occasions expressed its dissatisfaction over how the proceedings were conducted.

The Congress may have broken the convention by going for a contest, but it’s not going to be easy. It’s commonly known that Congress does not have the required numbers to make its candidate win the Speaker’s election. If it had a majority, it would have sat in the treasury or ruling benches, and not in the opposition.

But the problem for the Congress becomes far bigger. While it was trying to portray a united Opposition or post-election INDI Alliance unity, it ended up exposing the schism in that grouping.

Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress raised a red flag over Congress’ unilateral decision.

The Congress argues that it was compelled to take this decision because the BJP was not giving any assurance to them that the Deputy Speaker’s post would be given to the Opposition.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goel countered this by saying that there was no such convention (of offering the Deputy Speajer’s post to the Opposition).

The BJP released a list showing that in none of the Opposition-ruled states, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, Jharkhand, Punjab, Delhi, and Himachal Pradesh, the Deputy Speaker’s post has been given to the parties sitting in the Opposition bench.

Also, it was generally unheard of that there would be a war of words between the ruling party and the main bloc in the opposition over the nomination of a Pro-tem Speaker.

But the Congress raised a hue and cry over the nomination of the Pro-tem Speaker — Bhartruhari Mahtab, a seven-term, longest continually serving MP from Odisha.

Mahtab was sworn in for the position by President Droupadi Murmu, as is the norm, for a few days with limited purpose — to administer the oath of office to the newly-elected MPs and be on the chair to conduct the Speaker’s election.



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