Even as senior BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan was unanimously elected Lok Sabha Speaker on Friday, the splintered Opposition expressed apprehension over being sidelined in the House because of the “brute majority” enjoyed by the ruling party along with its allies.
Ms. Mahajan was elected by voice vote after members of various political parties — including the Opposition — tabled a motion proposing her name for the post. After the vote, she was immediately escorted to the Speaker’s chair by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior leaders of parties from across the floor.
With the Congress having just 44 seats in the LS, the Opposition is divided between the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (37), the All India Trinamool Congress (34), the Biju Janata Dal (20), the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (10), and several parties with strength in single digit.
Later at a news conference in response to questions on conferment of the Leader of the Opposition to the Congress, the Speaker said that she would study the precedents and take a considered view on the issue. To be eligible for the status of Opposition Leader, the single largest non-ruling party should have at least one-tenth of the effective strength of the House (in this case 55 of the 545 members).
Ms. Mahajan also indicated that in the short span of the session, which is scheduled to conclude on June 11, it may not be possible to elect Deputy Speaker. Ruling party managers said there was no decision yet on who they would prefer for the job.
In his congratulatory speech to Ms. Mahajan, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said, “Everyone should get their fair share of time to speak; even the smaller parties. Do carry the entire House along.”
Sudip Bandopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress expressed confidence that Ms. Mahajan would accept the “very common philosophy of parliamentary democracy that the House belongs to the Opposition.”
Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab urged the Speaker to “allow the Opposition to have its say,” while P. Karunakaran of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said smaller parties in the House need the protection and assistance of the Chair.
Mulayam Singh Yadav (Samajwadi Party), M. Rajamohan Reddy (YSR Congress), Badruddin Ajmal (All India United Democratic Front), Mehbooba Mufti (Jammu & Kashmir People’s Democratic Party), Neiphiu Rio (Naga People’s Front), Asaduddin Owaisi (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen), H.D. Deve Gowda (Janata Dal-Secular), N.K. Premachandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party) and even ruling coalition constituent Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel echoed similar sentiments.