The second chair: On Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker

More than a year after the 17th Lok Sabha was constituted, the constitutionally mandated post of Deputy Speaker is lying vacant. This unusual situation is in the spotlight as the monsoon session of Parliament begins on Monday and the Rajya Sabha is scheduled to elect a Deputy Chairman. The vacancy of Deputy Speaker appears to be less of a lapse, and more a calculated delay by the ruling BJP. On September 9, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, wrote to Speaker Om Birla to initiate the process, by election or consensus. Mr. Chowdhury also recalled the convention of offering the post to the Opposition. Mr. Birla has been non-committal in his public comments on the issue, and the BJP has remained silent. Soon after the 2019 general election, the government had made some effort to fill the position. It had approached the YSR Congress, which reportedly turned it down since it would have been difficult to align their protest against the government for not according special status to Andhra Pradesh with occupying the post. While the Congress has been forceful in raising the issue, other Opposition parties have been less enthusiastic. In the Rajya Sabha, the JD(U)’s Harivansh, who has been re-elected to the House, is seeking re-election as Deputy Chairman as the ruling combine’s candidate. He had defeated Congress leader B.K. Hariprasad — 125-105 votes — in elections in August 2018.

The ruling combine, despite not having a simple majority, has managed to win crucial votes several times over in the past in the Upper House. This time around, BJP leaders have claimed the support of 140 members for Mr. Harivansh. The RJD’s Manoj Jha, an erudite member in the Opposition, is the joint candidate of 12 parties for the post. There was confusion within the Opposition ranks on whether this contest was worth it. Several of their senior members are likely to skip the session, considering the risk of COVID-19 infection. The BSP, which has remained a reluctant Opposition party, is unlikely to be different this time. The BJP has taken its overwhelming parliamentary majority as a justification for disregarding not only the Opposition but also parliamentary conventions. Its refusal to engage the Opposition in electing a Deputy Speaker is further eroding the common ground that India sorely requires to deal with the multitude of its current challenges. The BJP’s pre-eminence has also devastated the Opposition which is struggling to muster a coherent and united response. Election by consensus of an Opposition MP as Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha will be a course correction. The government should be magnanimous and the Opposition creative in dealing with this issue.

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Printable version | May 12, 2021 9:00:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/the-second-chair-the-hindu-editorial-on-lok-sabha-deputy-speaker/article32594798.ece

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