Sushil Kumar Shinde, who was elevated as Union Home Minister on Tuesday, will be the next Leader of the Lok Sabha, the first Dalit to hold that job. On Friday evening, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wrote to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, informing him of the nomination.
The 71-year-old Congress leader — a seven time MLA and three time MP — steps into the shoes of a formidable predecessor, Pranab Mukherjee, who stepped down to contest the presidential elections. Moments after the letter reached Mr. Bansal’s office, the Minister gave instructions that Room 13 — the room that Mr. Mukherjee had occupied as LoH — in Parliament House should be readied for Mr. Shinde and that he should be assigned Division No 2, also held by the former Finance Minister, now the First Citizen of the country.
“I am grateful to the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for nominating me as Leader of the House,” Mr. Shinde, said, responding to the news of his elevation.
If Mr. Shinde lacks the intellectual stature of Mr. Mukherjee, he is a grassroots politician who has come up from the ranks, and brings years of experience in the organisation and government to a job in which he will have to interact with the Opposition on behalf of the government. It is hoped, party sources said, that his affable manner would help him extract cooperation from the Opposition in transacting business on the floor.
The rules mandate that the Prime Minister become the Leader of the House if he is a member of the Lok Sabha; if he is not a Lok Sabha MP, as in the case of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is a Rajya Sabha MP, he has to nominate one of his Cabinet Ministers to the job.
For Mr. Shinde, who represents Maharashtra’s Solapur Lok Sabha constituency, it’s been a long journey since his humble beginnings as a bailiff in court, a position he used to fund his education. His first real job was that of a sub-inspector with the Mumbai police, where he spent six years: at the time, Sharad Pawar, now Union Agriculture Minister, noticed him and persuaded him to quit his job and contest an Assembly poll from Karmala in Solapur in 1974. He won that election and has since not looked back. He has presented nine consecutive budgets in Maharashtra as Finance Minister, has been Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Governor of Andhra Pradesh. He was appointed Chief Minister in 2003 and led the Congress to victory in the State but failed to get a second shot at the job. But his unwavering loyalty to the Gandhi family saw him receive a double promotion this week — Union Home Minister and Leader of the Lok Sabha in the space of four days — and whizzing past his first political mentor, Mr. Pawar.