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Speaker need not resign from party, says Meira Kumar

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Meira Kumar
Meira Kumar

Venkitesh Ramakrishnan

New Speaker favours longer sittings and more ‘functioning time’ for Parliament

New Delhi: There is no constitutional requirement for the Lok Sabha Speaker to resign from his or her political party upon assuming office, Ms. Meira Kumar, the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha, said in an interview here on Saturday.

Her opinion was sought in the context of the stand taken by Sushma Swaraj, the Deputy Leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Lok Sabha. Ms. Swaraj had contended that earlier Speakers such as Balayogi and Neelam Sanjiva Reddy had formally severed their connections with their parent parties.

Somnath Chatterjee, who was Speaker of the 14th Lok Sabha, had also towards the end of his tenure expressed the view that the Speaker should consider resigning from one’s parent party.

Ms. Kumar said Sanjiva Reddy had actually resigned from his party, but the Constitution certainly did not stipulate such a step.

Speaking three days after being elected to the high constitutional post, Ms. Kumar also stressed that Parliament needed to stop wasting time on pointless and unproductive issues. She advocated increasing the “functioning time” of the Lok Sabha, including the number of days on which it sat.

The new Speaker, who has been elected a Member of Parliament five times, wanted the constructive functions of the House to be enhanced. The legislative function and the function of scrutinising the executive should be priorities, she said.

Ms. Kumar hopes to bring a new perspective to the functioning of the Lok Sabha as the country’s first Dalit and woman Speaker. But as presiding officer her primary agenda would not be guided by gender or community-specific parameters. “The Lok Sabha is the House of the people. The issues of the people have to be addressed in their entirety here. My effort will be to facilitate such wholesome application to the issues of the people.”

Ms. Kumar observed that, over the years, the time spent by Parliament to scrutinise the actions of the executive, and the time that is available for the executive to present its perspective, have come down by a considerable extent. “It is my intention to change this. One needs to note that the large young population of this country wants Parliament to spend quality time on constructive deliberations and action,” she said.

The Speaker wants to continue the initiatives to bring about greater transparency in the functioning of the Lok Sabha and is evolving concrete steps in this direction. Asked specifically whether she would follow up on the suggestion to make the deliberations of the Standing Committees open to the media, Ms. Kumar responded that she plans to talk to leaders of various political parties on this issue in order to evolve a widely acceptable view.

Ms. Kumar was of the view that the oft-cited Parliament vs judiciary juxtaposition is essentially a misrepresentation. “There can be no struggle between the two institutions. And if there are differences of views and opinion on some matters, that needs to be addressed as specific issues. Generalising that there is a perpetual struggle is not right,” she said.

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