NEW DELHI: The five-time Congress MP, Kishore Chandra Deo, elected from Araku (ST) in Andhra Pradesh to the 15th Lok Sabha, is the front runner for the post of Speaker.
But even before he takes the oath as an MP on June 1, when the first session of the Lok Sabha will open, he is facing a problem he has successfully dealt with three times in the past.
Regi Maheswara Rao, a lawyer from Araku, which Mr. Deo won this time with a record margin, filed a petition in the Andhra Pradesh High Court before the election results were out. The petition, which was not admitted by the court, questioned Mr. Deo’s Scheduled Tribe status, though three different inquiries at three different times — in 1977 and 1999 and after the 2004 Lok Sabha elections — have established his status.
Speaking to The Hindu here on Sunday, Mr. Deo, who refused to acknowledge that he is tipped to be the Speaker, spoke about the “harassment” he was suffering at the hands of this “habitual litigant.”
The first inquiry, Mr. Deo said, was held when he entered the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1977. He went through the process again in 1999, by when the rules were changed after the 1993 amendment to the Scheduled tribes and Scheduled Castes Act. He received his “life-time” certificate, declaring him a member of the Scheduled Tribe from the Kurupam ‘tehsildar’ and revenue divisional officer, after he produced all necessary documents.
“After I won the 2004 elections, Mr. Rao filed a petition with the Collector. After an inquiry conducted by the ‘tehsildar’ of Kurupam, my status was again confirmed, but no screening committee went into the case, as the officers concerned did not think it was necessary. Now again, before the 2009 election results were out, the same man, a habitual litigant, approached the High Court, which has not admitted the petition, but suggested that the appropriate screening committee look at my case,” he said.
As the Collector was busy with the elections, he deferred the matter until after the elections. On May 22, Mr. Deo appeared before the screening committee, with all the necessary documents, and is now awaiting its decision. “I am certainly hoping that the committee’s decision will be known in a few days. I do not want to say anything more at this juncture,” he said.
Declining to comment on the buzz that he could be the next Speaker, he was hoping that the controversy would be duly settled before the new Lok Sabha convened. He insisted that the issue was not before any court, as the High Court had not admitted Mr. Rao’s petition.
In the meanwhile, Mr. Rao has faxed an appeal to President Pratibha Patil, alleging that Mr. Deo was not a tribal, so was not eligible to contest from a reserved constituency. “It was after this I decided to speak up and clarify the issue,” Mr. Deo said.
Mr. Deo was elected to the sixth, seventh, and eighth Lok Sabhas, and then again to the 14th and now the 15th Lok Sabha. He has been a member of various parliamentary committees, and was most recently, and famously, the chairman of the Committee of Privileges of the Lok Sabha.