BJP may appoint Virendra Kumar as Speaker, give Deputy Speaker post to JDU
On the first day of the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, 313 of the 542 newly elected MPs took oath of office, setting the stage for structuring of the Lower House. On Tuesday, the remaining Parliamentarians will read out their pledge paving way for the crucial election of the Speaker of Lok Sabha.
Since the previous Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, did not contest the Lok Sabha elections, the BJP brass will have to decide who will run the House to which BJP has returned with even more numbers than in 2014.
Sources in BJP say the Modi-Shah duo may choose to elevate Virendra Kumar, who as "pro-tem" speaker administered the oath to MPs on Monday. Kumar, who represents the Tikamgarh seat in Madhya Pradesh, is a seven-term member of the Lower House.
However others in the BJP said the party brass may like to pick a senior MP who is "fluent in both English and Hindi" for the post and ensure that the selection sends out a political signal.
The process of election of the Speaker is expected to be over by Thursday. The BJP-led NDA has overwhelming numbers in the House. It is not clear whether the Opposition would like to create a symbolic contest for the post. The NDA will also have to decide who will be the Deputy Speaker in the house.
Conventionally, the post goes to a party which is not a member of the ruling dispensation. In 2014, BJP had handed the post to AIADMK MP M Thambidurai as an olive branch to the Tamil Nadu party, with whom the BJP contested the 2019 Lok Sabha elections as an alliance partner.
Sources in the BJP said that this time the post could go to BJP's Bihar ally Janata Dal United (JDU) or someone from Odisha's Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
The BJD and BJP contested the Lok sabha elections as main rivals in Odisha and won 12 and 8 seats respectively. By offering the seat to the BJD, BJP may attempt to get the support of the party's 5 MPs in Rajya Sabha where despite being the single largest party, BJP is nowhere close to the halfway mark. Since 2014, the Modi government has depended on parties like BJD, YSRCP and TRS to pass important legislations in the Upper House.
By next Monday, the new Speaker is expected to set the ball rolling for the constitution of the various department-related Parliamentary panels and committees like the Public Accounts Committee or the PAC.
Conventionally the heads of the crucial committees like on finance and even the PAC are members of the opposition parties. With the economy on the slide, the constitution of the standing committee on finance is going to be a keenly watched event.
The previous head of the panel, M Veerappa Moily has not returned to the 17th Lok Sabha. However, a BJP leader said, "The Opposition can take the chairmanship of the PAC but there is no rule that the panel on finance has to go to the Opposition."
The PAC is another crucial panel as it studies the audit reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Led by Opposition leader Murli Manohar Joshi, the PAC in 2013 had prepared a report on spectrum allocation criticising the Manmohan Singh government. Similarly, Moily as chairman over the last three years, tried to push critical reports against Modi government on issues like note ban, flight of black money from India and losses suffered by public sector banks.
But these exercises would have to wait one more day as over 200 MPs are yet to be administered oath. With 300 first time MPs in the new Lok Sabha, it was a crowded hectic first day of the first session.
ELABORATE ATTIRE, FOOD SHORTAGE & ALL THAT HAPPENED ON DAY 1
Many MPs arrived dressed for the occasion with either members of their family or a group of supporters.
New members posed before the large posse of cameramen at the entrance of the two Houses.
While some bowed at the entrance as a mark of respect, others went one step further by taking their shoes off before climbing the steps.
With more first timers, the euphoria and curiosity was palpable. Leaders like West Delhi MP Parvesh Sahib Singh Verma arrived dressed in a starched "pagri" (turban). Three Bihar MPs, Ashok Yadav from Madhubani (BJP), Gopal Thakur from Darbhanga (BJP) and Ramprit Mandal from Jhanjharpur (JD-U) arrived in 'Mithilanchal' attire with bright "pagh" or caps.
A Shiv Sena MP wore a crimson turban while Bollywood star Sunny Deol made a style statement with a black shirt and blue denims. Former cricketer Gautam Gambhir moved seamlessly from cricketing whites to white khaki kurta pajama on his first day at the Lok Sabha. BJP MP from Mysuru, Pratap Simha's traditional Coorgi dress attracted a lot of attention.
Many MPs, some even third timers, arrived with their family members. The increased footfall had a direct impact on the availability of food for lunch at the Central Hall. The usually well stocked kitchen run out of most popular items by 4 pm and could only offer dhokla, idlis and "curd rice". Beverage services operated offered by the Coffee Board and the Tea Board was also under tremendous pressure.
Old timers at the canteen tutored the newcomers on the custom of a quick "buttered multi-grain bread toast" meal with beverages as well as the need to rush to the House when the quorum bell rang.
New MPs struggled to find their way inside the majestic Parliament building. Some who walked inside the Central Hall of Parliament for the first time could be seen standing and looking at the tall dome in awe. Many went around the Hall looking at the large pictures of India's political icons adorning the walls.
Actor-turned-politician Ravi Kishan, who is an extremely popular Bhojpuri film star, chose to spend some of his spare time with fellow superstar and two-term BJP MP Manoj Tiwari.
Many members took oath in different regional languages. Most members of PM Modi's council barring the likes of Babul Supriyo took oath in Hindi or other official languages. Minister Harsh Vardhan, Delhi MP Meenakshi Lekhi and Pratap Chandra Sarangi read their oath in Sanskrit.
Minister in PMO, Jitendra Singh took oath in Dogri, Harsimrat Kaur Badal in Punjabi, Arvind Sawant in Marathi, D V Sadanand Gowda in Kannada and Bhartruhari Mahtab in Odia.
The loudest thumping of tables in appreciation went for Congress member Kodikunnil Suresh from Kerala. He surprised both the treasury and Opposition benches by reading his oath in Hindi.
Bjp MPs Rajiv Pratap Rudy from Saran (BJP) and Janardan Singh Sigriwal from Maharajganj wanted to read their oath on Bhojpuri but had to stick to Hindi as their preferred language is not one of the recognised languages under Eighth Schedule.