Sumitra Mahajan in Parliament on Friday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, June 6: Eight-term MP Sumitra Mahajan, 71, was today unanimously elected Speaker of the 16th Lok Sabha and promptly declared herself a grandma.
She termed her new assignment a challenging one and promised to be even-handed and protect the interests of all the parties and MPs.
Sumitra, who represents Indore and is the longest-serving woman MP, is the second woman presiding officer of the lower House after her predecessor Meira Kumar.
Among the leaders who rose to congratulate her was 26-year-old Indian National Lok Dal MP Dushyant Chautala.
“You have worked with my great-grandfather Chaudhary Devi Lal, grandfather Om Prakash Chautala and father Ajay Chautala. I hope you will guide me in the House,” Dushyant said.
Pat came Sumitra’s quip: “Dadi maa ho gayi main (I have become a grandmother).”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proposed Sumitra’s name and BJP veteran L.K. Advani seconded him, as had many of the NDA and Opposition parties.
“It’s a matter of pride for all of us that a woman is at the helm of the temple of the world’s largest democracy. We hope that her guidance would help us in smooth conduct of the House,” Modi said.
Congress legislature party leader Mallikarjun Kharge urged Sumitra to safeguard the rights of all parties, big and small.
“In a democracy, it is very difficult to make everyone happy. But you have got an opportunity to safeguard the rights of everybody — the bigger as well as the smaller parties. You have to take everybody along,” Kharge said.
Trinamul Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the ruling coalition’s overwhelming majority should not encourage it to feel that the Opposition is “small”.
“The big number on the Treasury benches should not make them feel that the small Opposition can be taken for granted,” Sudip said, hoping that Sumitra would give ample space to the Opposition.
Later, at a news conference, the Speaker promised to safeguard the interests of all MPs and ensure that Parliament functioned properly without disruption. She, however, refused to clarify whether the Congress would get the post of leader of the Opposition.
“We shall discuss the matter and take a decision. There are several precedents that I shall have to study. I will also have to look at the future,” she said.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar will get a Rajya Sabha berth from Madhya Pradesh after his name was finalised by the BJP on Friday. Nirmala Sitharaman will get an upper House berth from Andhra Pradesh.