Row over appointment of Bhartruhari Mahtab as pro-tem Speaker explained | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Row over appointment of Bhartruhari Mahtab as pro-tem Speaker explained

Jun 24, 2024 12:23 PM IST

Bhartruhari Mahtab, a seven-term Lok Sabha member from Cuttack, was appointed by President Droupadi Murmu as the pro-tem Speaker.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress are at odds again over the appointment of BJP leader Bhartuhari Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker of the 18th Lok Sabha. The issue is likely to become one of the key flashpoints between the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Opposition's INDIA bloc as the Lok Sabha session begins today. Follow Lok Sabha live updates today

BJP leader and pro-tem Speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab
BJP leader and pro-tem Speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab

Mahtab, a seven-term Lok Sabha member from Cuttack, was appointed by President Droupadi Murmu as the pro-tem Speaker on June 20. Along with him, Suresh Kodikunnil, Thalikkottai Rajuthevar Baalu, Radha Mohan Singh, Faggan Singh Kulaste, and Sudip Bandyopadhyay were appointed to assist the pro-tem Speaker in the oath-taking of the newly elected members.

What is the row over Mahtab's appointment as pro-tem Speaker?

The appointment of Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker did not sit well with the Opposition, which claimed that the eight-term member K Suresh, a Dalit leader, was overlooked for the temporary post. According to the Congress, Mahtab's appointment by the BJP deviates from the traditional practice of appointing the senior member, adding that it is an “established tradition” in the Lok Sabha that the senior-most MP becomes the pro-tem Speaker.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said that K Suresh was ignored for the post because of his Dalit lineage. “If this argument is adopted, then why has Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi, a BJP MP who is also in his seventh consecutive term, not been considered? Is it because he is a Dalit like Suresh,” the AICC general secretary in-charge of communications, said.

While Congress leader KC Venugopal sought an explanation from the ruling BJP over why it “overlooked” the senior Dalit leader, party MP Pramod Tiwari targeted the saffron party, arguing that it amounts to “insulting” the entire House and democracy.

Amid the controversy, the INDIA bloc decided to withdraw its members from the panel of chairpersons that will assist Mahtab in conducting the proceedings of the Lok Sabha till the election of the Speaker.

BJP defends Mahtab's appointment

Meanwhile, the government defended Mahtab's appointment as the pro-tem Speaker, saying that, unlike Suresh, Mahtab has had an uninterrupted run in the Lok Sabha. Notably, Suresh lost the elections in 1998 and 2004, which makes his current term the fourth straight one in the lower house.

BJP MP Sambit Patra said that the decision was made according to the established convention rather than law.

Also read: 18th Lok Sabha's first session: What will be the Opposition's key issues?

“The President of India recommends the pro-tem speaker through Article 95 of the Constitution of India. It is a long convention that has been going on in this beautiful democracy of India since independence. Now, Congress is trying to disturb this process…Bhartruhari Mahtab is serving as an MP consecutively for the seventh time. The convention says that the MP with the longest period of unbroken service can be appointed as the pro-tem Speaker,” he said.

On Sunday, parliamentary affairs minister Kiren Rijiju reached out to TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay after the INDIA bloc's decision to withdraw its members from the panel of chairpersons assisting Mahtab.

Earlier, Rijiju had said that the appointment of Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker was done “as per the rules”, and urged the Congress to “not politicise” the issue.

Who is the pro-tem Speaker?

The pro-tem Speaker, chosen by the President, administers the oath to newly elected members and oversees the proceedings of the House until the permanent Speaker is elected.

According to Article 94 of the Constitution, the office of the Speaker becomes vacant immediately before the first meeting of the new Lok Sabha. In that case, the duties of the Speaker are to be performed by a Member of the House appointed as the pro-tem Speaker.

During the 17th Lok Sabha assembly, Virendra Kumar was sworn in as the pro-tem Speaker. He was elected by then-President Ram Nath Kovind.

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