M Thambidurai, leader of the All India Anna Dravida Munetra Kazhagam in Parliament, was unanimously elected as Lok Sabha's deputy speaker on Wednesday, making him the first leader to occupy the post twice.
The sixty-seven-year-old AIADMK leader was elected to the post after a motion, moved by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and seconded by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj supporting him, was carried by voice vote amid thumping of desks from all sides.
Thambidurai, who was deputy speaker from 1985 to 1989, was the only candidate to file nominations for the post before Tuesday’s deadline. Eleven parties in the ruling and the opposition benches including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress supported him.
A five-term member, Thambidurai represents the Karur constituency in Tamil Nadu and his party is the second largest party in the opposition after the Congress.
While there were 12 other similar motions moved by leaders of Congress, Trinamool Congress, the Biju Janata Dal, the Shiv Sena, the Telugu Desam Party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the AIADMK, the Lok Janashakti Party and the Nationalist Congress Party, they became infructuous after the one moved by Rajnath Singh and Swaraj, "that Dr M Thambidurai, a member of this House, be chosen as the deputy speaker of this House", was adopted.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described Thambidurai as a "multi-faceted personality" and thanked all parties, especially those in the Opposition, to have made his unanimous election possible. Modi said Thambidurai was not only an academician, but an activist and an agriculturist also and his rich parliamentary experience would guide the House on the correct path.
Leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge, whose party has still not been given the post of the Leader of the Opposition, said Thambidurai was "large-hearted" and would help the Opposition to put forth its point of view.
He said he was not blaming Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of partiality but wanted to emphasise that "we have to get along for five long years." "Abhi manzil bahut door hai. Dil mile ya na mile, kamsey kam haath milake chalna hai (the destination is far off. Even if our hearts do not meet, we have to move forward at least by holding hands)," Kharge said.
The AIADMK with 37 members of Parliament is the third largest party in Lok Sabha after BJP and Congress, which have 279 and 44 members respectively.
The Speaker later sought to turn the tables on Kharge saying "agar man saaf ho to dil milne me kathinai nahi hoti (if our conscience is clear, there is no problem for our hearts to meet)."
She hailed Thambidurai for his intellect, wisdom and long parliamentary experience and said his election would definitely raise the prestige of the post. "I am confident that his guidance will go a long way in smooth conduct of the proceedings of the House. ...I am sure that our joint efforts will be to maintain and strengthen the traditions of our parliamentary democracy," Mahajan said.
The prime mnister assured Thambidurai of full cooperation of the government and the treasury benches in running the House and said the unanimous election was in keeping with the highest traditions of the House.
Thambidurai thanked the AIADMK chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the prime minister for the responsibility reposed on him and said it would be his endeavour to be true to his task. He said he was "deeply overwhelmed" by the support from all sides to his candidature.
After the AIADMK leader was declared elected, Modi and Kharge walked up to Thambidurai, seated in the front row with the TMC's Sudip Bandopadhyay, and escorted him to his new seat, amid thumping of desks. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Bandopadhyay also joined them.
B Mahtab (BJD) sought to draw similarity between the 8th Lok Sabha and the present one where Munnisamy Thambidurai got the opportunity to work as deputy speaker.
"Things change, yet they do not change. In 1985 (when Thambidurai was the deputy speaker for the first time), the ruling party had 400 plus members and the deputy speakership had gone to the second largest party in the Opposition, as has happened now," he said.
Besides, he said in the House which has the ruling National Democratic Alliance having a strength of 336 members, the main opposition party was not claiming the post of deputy speaker.
Bandopadhyay remarked that his party leader Mamata Banerjee had said there was no question of any other name when Thambidurai's name was being proposed for deputy speakership. He as also several other leaders thanked the prime minister for the good precedent of getting speaker and deputy speaker elected unanimously.
Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav of the RJD used the opportunity occasion to pitch for granting leader of opposition status to Congress. Congratulating the prime minister for ensuring unanimous election of the deputy speaker, Yadav remarked that it would be great if prime minister showed "large heart" on the issue of the LoP.
Several leaders, including Anant Geete of Shiv Sena, Jithendra Reddy of TRS, P Karunakaran (CPI-M), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Ram Vilas Paswan (LJP), M Srinivas Rao (TDP), M Rajmohan Reddy (YSRCP) and Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Akali Dal), congratulated Thambidurai.
Their main contention was that since Thambidurai hailed from a regional party, he should give more opportunity to regional and smaller parties to have their say. Bhagwant Mann (Aam Aadmi Party), a stand-up comedian, requested Thambidurai "to delay in ringing the bell" when members of small parties speak.
Tariq Hameed Kaara (Peoples Democratic Party) said democracy was all about accommodation and hoped that he would be "very accommodative" as the presiding officer.
Minister Upendra Kushwaha (Rashtriya Lok Samiti Party) took a dig at the opposition remarking that at least today, those in the opposition may be feeling that "good days have come".
Former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda complimented Modi for the "magnanimity" to take the entire House into confidence in the election of the deputy speaker.
Thambidurai said his party was for early passage of the Women's Reservation Bill and hoped the government would ensure that the measure, envisaging 33 per cent quota for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies, will be brought at the earliest. LJP leader and Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the election of the deputy speaker would help relieve "some tension" of the speaker.