By convention, eight-term MP Kodikunnil Suresh should have been LS pro-tem Speaker: Congress

Mahtab was on Thursday appointed pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju said.


Published Jun 21, 2024 | 11:03 AM Updated Jun 21, 2024 | 12:04 PM

Kodikunnil Suresh

The Congress on Thursday, 20 June, accused the government of “destroying parliamentary norms” by choosing seven-term BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab as pro-tem Speaker instead of eight-term Lok Sabha member Kodikunnil Suresh who, it said, should have got it as per the convention of naming the senior-most MP to the post.

Mahtab was on Thursday appointed pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju said.

He said Mahtab, a BJP member from Cuttack, was appointed as pro-tem Speaker by President Droupadi Murmu under Article 95(1) of the Constitution to perform the duties of the Lok Sabha presiding officer till the election of the Speaker.

‘Insulting the Opposition’

Eight-term Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh on Friday, 21 June, said that being the senior most Lok Sabha member, he ought to have been made the pro-tem Speaker as per conventions and not doing so shows that the “BJP will continue to bypass Parliamentary procedures as it did the last two times”.

Suresh said that it was against the conventions followed in the past.

“This decision amounts to threatening parliamentary democracy in the country. It indicates that the BJP will continue to bypass parliamentary procedures or use them for its own interests, as it did the last two times,” he contended while speaking to media.

Suresh said that the decision also indicates that the BJP will continue to insult the opposition, take away its opportunities and not give it the recognition it deserves, as they (BJP) did during the last two times they were in power.

The senior Congress MP from Mavelikkara LS constituency said that despite the BJP not having a majority in the House on its own, as it did the last two times, there was no change in how it was conducting itself.

Senior most MP as pro-tem speaker

Suresh said that as per the largely followed past conventions, the Lok Sabha member who has been an MP the most number of times, is made the pro-tem Speaker.

“This convention was followed in the past when the Congress, UPA, BJP and the NDA were in power,” he said.

Last time, Maneka Gandhi, who was an eight-term MP, was eligible to be the pro-tem Speaker, but she was not interested as she was not made a Union minister, Suresh claimed.

“After her, the senior most MPs were myself and BJP’s Veerendra Kumar. But, Kumar was chosen to be Pro-tem Speaker. This time too, Kumar and I were the senior most MPs. He was made a cabinet minister and therefore, automatically, as per LS rules, procedures and conventions, I should have been made pro-tem Speaker.

“My name was recommended by the LS secretariat. But when the Centre sent its recommendation to the President, my name was avoided,” he claimed.

‘Not by convention’

Reacting to the development, 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.”

“The latter is now a Union minister and hence it was expected that Kodikunnil Suresh would be the Speaker Protem. Instead, a seven-term MP, Bhartruhari Mahtab has been appointed Speaker Protem. He was a BJD MP for six terms and is now a BJP MP,” Ramesh said on ‘X’.

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Chosen over senior most MP 

Congress leader Manickam Tagore, in a post on ‘X’, said, “First mistake as Parliamentary Affairs Minister: 7-term BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab chosen as Protem Speaker of Lok Sabha over senior-most Dalit MP Kodikkunnil Suresh of Congress.”

“What are the minister’s intentions?,” he added with hashtags ‘Biased Decisions’ and ‘Protem Speaker’.

Congress general secretary, in-charge organization, KC Venugopal said, “In yet another attempt at destroying parliamentary norms, Bhartruhari Mahtab, a seven-term MP, has been appointed the pro-tem Speaker, superseding Kodikunnil Suresh, who will be entering his eighth term.”

“It is an unquestioned norm that the senior-most MP presides over the proceedings of the House before the Speaker is duly elected. It is a matter of immense pride for our party that K Suresh, a leader from the marginalised section of society, has achieved this feat of being an eight-term MP,” he said on X.

“The government should explain why it chose to overlook K Suresh, what was the factor that disqualified him from this post? Are there deeper issues influencing this decision, perhaps beyond just merit and seniority?” Venugopal added.

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18 Lok Sabha

The Centre’s decision had drawn sharp criticism from the Congress on Thursday.

The practice of appointing the senior most member as the pro-tem Speaker was not followed in 1956 when Sardar Hukam Singh was appointed to the post.

In 1977, DN Tiwari was appointed as pro-tem Speaker. He too was not the senior most member of the House.

The newly elected members of the 18th Lok Sabha will take oath or affirmation before the pro-tem Speaker, who will be assisted by a panel of chairpersons comprising Congress leader Suresh, DMK leader TR Baalu, BJP members Radha Mohan Singh and Faggan Singh Kulaste and TMC leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay.

Mathab quit the BJD ahead of the Lok Sabha elections to join the BJP.

The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha will begin on 24 June. The newly elected members will take oath/affirmation on 24-25 June. The election of the Speaker is scheduled to take place on 26 June.

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