NEW DELHI: The appointment of Bhartruhari Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker of the 18th Lok Sabha has been met with criticism from opposition parties, who have argued that it deviates from the traditional practice of selecting the most senior member for the role.
Mahtab, a seasoned parliamentarian from the BJP, was appointed to the position on June 20 by President Droupadi Murmu.
Historically, the pro-tem Speaker is usually the most senior member of the House, who administers the oath to newly elected members and oversees the proceedings until a permanent Speaker is elected.
However, in this instance, Mahtab, who won from the Cuttack parliamentary seat for the 7th time, has been appointed despite not being the senior-most member.
The Congress voiced its disapproval, highlighting that its party MP Kodikunnil Suresh is an eight-term Lok Sabha member.
Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “By convention, the MP who has served the maximum terms is appointed Speaker Protem for the first two days when the oath is administered to all newly elected MPs”.
“The senior-most MPs in the 18th Lok Sabha are Kodikunnil Suresh (INC) and Virendra Kumar (BJP), both of who are now serving their eighth term,” he added.
The controversy has also been linked to the electoral success of the BJP in the polls in Odisha after the party made its government in the state for the first time.
Mahtab’s selection by the BJP has been seen by some as a reward for his electoral success in the state. Mahtab had switched over the the BJP from the BJD just before the Lok Sabha elections.
Parliamentary affairs minister Kiren Rijiju hit out at the opposition over the controversy: “Congress is doing so many wrong things that it is trying to mislead people. First of all, the Congress said that we have violated the rules while appointing the pro-tem Speaker. I want to tell you clearly that whatever steps have been taken to appoint the pro-tem Speaker have been done according to the rules…Congress should not do politics.”
The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha will begin on June 24. The newly elected members will take oath on June 24-25. The election of the Speaker is scheduled to take place on June 26.