BJP's Om Birla Vs Congress's K Suresh: Lok Sabha To Witness Election Of Speaker For The 4th Time

BJP's Om Birla Vs Congress's K Suresh: Lok Sabha To Witness Election Of Speaker For The 4th Time

Birla will likely become the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as the ruling coalition has 293 members as against the INDIA bloc, which has 232.

Abhishek SinghUpdated: Tuesday, June 25, 2024, 11:53 PM IST
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K. Suresh (Left) Om Birla (Right) | FPJ

India will witness an election for the Speaker’s post in the Lok Sabha for the fourth time in decades on June 26. 

This comes after the NDA refused to give the Deputy Speaker’s post to the INDIA bloc, which called its demand a "convention." The BJP said that the Speaker, as per tradition, should be chosen unanimously and that the conditional support for their candidate from the Opposition did not “fit into any tradition of the Lok Sabha.” 

The election for the post of Speaker will take place at 11 am on June 26 between three-time BJP MP from Kota Om Birla and Congress leader and eight-time MP K. Suresh from Kerala’s Mavelikara.

Initially, the government and the Opposition appeared to have reached a consensus for the post of the Speaker; however, things took a turn after the government was non-committal on giving the Deputy Speaker's post to the Opposition.

The government had asked Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju to build a consensus on the Lok Sabha Speaker candidate.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed that Rajnath Singh called Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and asked him to extend support to their candidate for the Speaker’s post.

“The Opposition has said we would support the Speaker, but the convention is that the Deputy Speaker post should be given to the Opposition. Rajnath Singh said that he would call back Mallikarjun Kharge, but he has not done that yet," said Rahul.

What is this convention that Congress is talking about?

There has been a convention to give the Deputy Speaker's post to the Opposition. This is done to ensure a balance of power in the House. Earlier, a candidate from the main Opposition party used to be the Deputy Speaker; however, there were departures from this tradition on many occasions. The Constitution does not bind political parties in the ruling coalition to offer the post of Deputy to the Opposition. An election for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha only happens when there is no consensus between the government and the Opposition.

Three previous Speaker elections

There have been three incidents in the past when the Parliament witnessed an election for the post of the Speaker. First, in 1952 when G.V. Mavalankar of the Congress, who was nominated by Jawaharlal Nehru, was pitched against Shantaram More of the Opposition parties. More had voted for Mavalankar, saying that it was a healthy sign of a democracy that people vote for each other.

The House again was divided in 1967 when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. Congress's Neelam Sanjiva Reddy faced an Independent MP whom the Opposition supported, and the members of the House voted on paper slips to choose Reddy as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha with 278 votes in his favour.

Again in 1976, during the Emergency, the country saw an election for the post of Speaker in which Congress's Bali Ram Bhagat won with 344 votes in his favour.

How do a Speaker and his Deputy get elected?

Article 93 of the Indian Constitution mandates the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha. It states that the House of the People must choose two of its members for these positions as soon as possible after the House is constituted and also elect replacements when these offices fall vacant.

According to Article 94, the Speaker must be a member of the House. While there are no specific qualifications required to run for the position, a deep understanding of the Constitution and Indian laws is highly beneficial.

Usually, the Speaker is elected from the ruling party. A customary process involves the ruling party nominating a candidate after informal consultations with leaders of other parties and groups in the House, ensuring the Speaker's respect across the board. Traditionally, the Prime Minister or the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs proposes the candidate.

The Speaker (and the Deputy Speaker) is elected by a simple majority of the members present and voting in the Lok Sabha.

Incidentally, the post of Deputy Speaker was not filled in Modi 2.0 between 2019 and 2024; however, during his first term, the chair was given to M. Thambidurai of the AIADMK, an ally of the BJP.

Backdrop to the contest for the Speaker’s position

The contest for the Speaker's position has been ongoing since the 2024 Lok Sabha election results revealed that the BJP could not establish its third consecutive government without the backing of allies, notably Chandrababu Naidu's TDP and Nitish Kumar's JDU.

Initially, there was considerable discussion about appointing a TDP MP as Speaker to "reward" the Andhra Pradesh party. However, the BJP indicated its intention to retain this crucial role.

Subsequently, there was speculation that the BJP might appoint Bhartruhari Mahtab, its MP from Cuttack in Odisha, especially after forming a government in the state for the first time. Instead, Mahtab was designated as the Pro Tem Speaker and oversaw the swearing-in of all Lok Sabha MPs.

Birla likely to be elected

Birla will likely become the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as the ruling coalition has 293 members as against the INDIA bloc, which has 232. However, it seems that the Opposition does not want to leave a single chance to assert their significance and increased strength in the House and in the minds of the ruling government, which has for a decade undermined their presence and mocked their inefficiency as a competent opponent.

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