Bhartruhari Mahtab appointed pro tem speaker amid opposition protests

As the 18th Lok Sabha session began, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab was sworn in as the pro tem Speaker despite strong objections from the Opposition. 

| Updated: 24 June, 2024 3:29 pm IST
As the 18th Lok Sabha session began, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab was sworn in as the pro tem Speaker despite strong objections from the Opposition. 
As the 18th Lok Sabha session began, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab was sworn in as the pro tem Speaker despite strong objections from the Opposition. 

NEW DELHI: As the 18th Lok Sabha session began, BJP MP Bhartruhari Mahtab was sworn in as the pro tem Speaker despite strong objections from the Opposition.

President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath to Mahtab at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Mahtab, a seven-time MP, will oversee the oath-taking ceremony for newly elected MPs and the election of the Speaker on June 26.

Mahtab will preside over the first Lok Sabha session, starting with the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other members. He will also administer oaths to the panel of chairpersons and the Council of Ministers.

The Congress and other Opposition parties criticised the appointment, arguing that the seniority convention was violated. They claimed that Kodikunnil Suresh, an eight-term Congress MP, was overlooked. Senior Congress leaders like Jairam Ramesh and KC Venugopal accused the BJP of politicising the appointment and disrespecting parliamentary norms.

The BJP defended the choice, citing Mahtab’s uninterrupted service in the Lok Sabha. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju stated that Mahtab’s continuous terms since 1998 made him eligible for the position. In contrast, Suresh had interruptions in his parliamentary service, with electoral defeats in 1998 and 2004.

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Mahtab’s recent switch from the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to the BJP added to the controversy. The Opposition linked this switch to his appointment. During the protest, Opposition members, including Suresh, T R Baalu, and Sudip Bandyopadhyay, announced they would not assist the pro tem Speaker during the oath-taking process.

The BJP maintained that the decision followed established conventions and urged the Congress to refrain from politicising the matter. BJP spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla criticised the Opposition’s reaction and suggested that Suresh should be considered for other significant roles within the Congress.

ALSO READ: 18th Lok Sabha session: MPs take oath amid protests

The pro tem Speaker’s role is critical in the initial days of a new Lok Sabha session. They administer oaths to new MPs and facilitate the election of the permanent Speaker. The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha is scheduled to continue until July 3, during which the election of the new Speaker will take place.

This controversy marks a contentious start to the new Lok Sabha session, reflecting the heightened political tensions between the ruling NDA and the Opposition’s INDIA bloc.

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