NEW DELHI, June 11 (AGENCIES): Seven-term BJP MP Virendra Kumar, a Dalit leader who is seen as a strong contender for the Lok Sabha Speaker post, was on Tuesday appointed the pro-tem speaker, who will administer the oath of office to newly elected members of the lower house of Parliament, an official communication said.
It added that Lok Sabha members Bhartruhari Mahtab, Kodikunil Suresh and Brijbhushan Sharan Singh have been appointed by President Ram Nath Kovind as persons before whom MPs can take the oath as well.
Maneka Gandhi, an eight-term MP, was widely speculated to be the pro-tem speaker as she is the senior most Lok Sabha member, but the BJP has opted for Kumar, who was a minister in the previous Narendra Modi-led government and comes from Madhya Pradesh.
As a pro-tem speaker, Kumar will preside over the first sitting of the Lok Sabha and administer the oath of office to the newly-elected MPs and will also oversee the election of the Lok Sabha speaker.
Sources said the development has boosted Kumar’s prospects of being the ruling dispensation’s choice for the speaker’s post as his Dalit identity is also seen as an asset for the saffron party. Besides these two leaders, former Union ministers Radha Mohan Singh, Jual Oram, and S S Ahluwalia are seen as contenders for the post.
Union Minister and veteran parliamentarian Santosh Gangwar was also in the race for the speaker’s chair but his induction in the Modi government indicates that he may no longer be in contention.
The first session of the newly-constituted 17th Lok Sabha will be held from June 17 to July 26.
Sources also suggested that the BJP may offer deputy speaker’s post to the BJD, which is not a part of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) but at time has supported the government in Parliament, or one of its allies such as Shiv Sena.