3 June : 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.
Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee shared the Prime Minister’s views that Kumar’s experience as a diplomat, as a political organiser as also administrator in the government and a long stint in Parliament will help her discharge the responsibility bestowed on her.
"I know this is not an easy task. Collectively, we can help you in smooth running of Parliament but handful of us can cause problems," he said.With acrimony in the previous Lok Sabha weighing heavily on his mind, Mukherjee, who was also Leader of that House, wanted the new House to create a precedent- not of obstruction and disruption but of debate and discussion.
Noting that Parliament was a temple of democracy, he said only recently a "festival" was witnessed in which 700 million people elected their representatives.
Mukherjee recalled that Speakers from G V Mavlankar to Somnath Chatterjee had a unique record of impartiality, judiciousness and taking correct decisions at correct times and hoped that Kumar will continue the tradition.
Leader of Opposition L K Advani expressed confidence that Kumar’s experience in public life would help her serve as Speaker in an efficient manner.He was hopeful that the 15th Lok Sabha would run smoothly.The senior BJP leader recalled that he had worked with Kumar’s late father Jagjivan Ram during the government of Morarji Desai.Advani said he did not anticipate Meira Kumar becoming the Speaker when the UPA Council of Ministers was formed on 22nd May as she was one of the 19 Ministers.
He said that though she was no longer a minister, she could serve the people better in the capacity of Speaker.CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia hoped that with a woman becoming the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha for the first time, the long-pending bill for women’s reservation would see light of the day.
He said CPI(M) had not filed nomination proposing Kumar’s name for Speakership as the government had "not approached" his party "properly".Acharia alleged that in the previous House, the UPA government had rushed through various bills, "scuttling" debate and discussion.
He hoped this will not happen under Kumar, whom he described as "friend, philosopher and guide".