Opposition Alleges Bias Against Dalits in Pro tem Speaker Appointment; Govt Defends Decision

BJP leader Bhartruhari Mahtab, who has been appointed as the pro tem Speaker of Lok Sabha, is a seven-time MP from Odisha, Congress’s Kodikunnil Suresh is an eight-time Dalit MP from Kerala. Parliamentary norms suggest that the position should go to the most senior MP.
Left to Right: Kodikunnil Suresh and Bhartruhari Mahtab
Left to Right: Kodikunnil Suresh and Bhartruhari Mahtab

New Delhi: The appointment of Bhartruhari Mahtab as the pro tem Speaker of Lok Sabha by the government has stirred controversy, with the Opposition asserting it violates parliamentary norms that dictate the position should go to the most senior Member of Parliament (MP) — who is Kodikunnil Suresh of the Congress.

Mahtab, a seven-time MP from Odisha, was appointed despite Suresh, an eight-time MP from Kerala, being the longer-serving parliamentarian.

Accusing the government of bias against Dalits, the Congress raised concerns over Suresh being overlooked due to his community background. The Communist Party of India (Maxist) or CPI(M) and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan echoed these sentiments, hinting at “upper caste politics” influencing the decision.

Responding to these allegations, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju defended the appointment, citing the Westminster system where the longest-serving uninterrupted MP is traditionally chosen as pro tem Speaker.

Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh criticized the move as reflective of the BJP’s confrontational politics and questioned whether Suresh’s Dalit identity played a role in the decision.

Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan also condemned the appointment, alleging a disregard for democratic norms.

Congress leaders expressed dismay over the decision, emphasizing Suresh’s seniority and accusing the BJP of sidelining the Opposition. They highlighted the absence of a Deputy Speaker throughout the previous Lok Sabha term as further evidence of BJP’s disregard for parliamentary traditions.

In response, BJP’s Rijiju reiterated that Mahtab’s selection adhered to parliamentary rules and dismissed the allegations as baseless. He clarified that the pro tem Speaker position, a temporary role for oath-taking, should not escalate into a nationwide issue.

Amidst the controversy, Suresh emphasized his seniority and criticized the decision as detrimental to parliamentary democracy in India.

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