Outgoing Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Friday announced she would not contest the general election, making her resentment clear by saying she had “freed her party” from a difficult choice.
Mahajan, who turns 76 this week, is the latest to join the BJP’s club of sidelined seniors that includes L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra and B.C. Khanduri.
A Speaker seen as biased towards the government, Mahajan was expecting the party to re-nominate her from Indore in Madhya Pradesh, which she has represented for eight terms.
Over the past five years, Opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha repeatedly complained that their mikes were switched off every time they criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi; for a full session, Mahajan did not admit a no-confidence motion against the government on the grounds of lack of order; and the 16th Lok Sabha did not have a Leader of the Opposition because she went with the government on refusing to grant the status to the Congress.
This January, after Mahajan described Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics as proof that Rahul Gandhi could not handle things alone, the Opposition reminded her that the Speaker was expected to be impartial.
“Ma’am you are the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Can you save the cheap shots for when you no longer occupy that high office,” Omar Abdullah tweeted.
In a statement released by her office on Friday, Mahajan said: “The BJP has not declared its candidate from Indore. Why this state of indecision? Maybe the party is hesitating. Even though I had a discussion with the leadership and left the decision to them. It seems they still have reservations, so I declare that I will not contest Lok Sabha elections, so party is free to decide, without any hesitation.”
The BJP has announced candidates for most seats in Madhya Pradesh but had held back Indore, saying there was still time because the constituency will vote in the last phase on May 19.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley, asked about Mahajan’s announcement, said: “The party decision is very clear about not giving tickets to leaders above 75 years of age.”
Mahajan’s announcement comes a day after Advani appeared to chastise the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo by underlining in a statement that the BJP had never seen those opposed to the party as “enemies” or “anti-nationals”.
Jaitley refrained from criticising Advani and said the BJP has always followed the policy advocated by the party patriarch. “What Advaniji has said has been the BJP’s clear policy. We never considered (rivals) anti-nationals,” Jaitley said in response.
Privately, however, party leaders said the marginalised seniors could join hands and come out against the current regime in the middle of the elections. This fear gained currency after Murli Manohar Joshi called on Advani and the two leaders, who have both been denied election tickets, talked for over an hour.
Although the elders refused to speak, sources said Joshi might come out with his attack against the present leadership of the party.