06/04/2009, 00.00
INDIA

For the first time a Dalit woman as speaker of the Parliament

by CT Nilesh
The congress elected Meira Kumar as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. She hails froma a family of politicians that has always been close to the Congress. Her nomination reopens the issue of women in the parliament and hopes that the new government increases its effort in the social field.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Meira Kumar is the new Speaker  of the 15th Lok Sabha, the Indian lower house of parliament. It is the first time a Dalit lady occupies an important role as that of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha . When her name was mentioned by Sonia Gandhi, Meira gladly resigned as Water Resources Minister, taken up the week before. Most probably this decision will facilitate the difficult task of introducing the women’s quota in the legislature and make a statement on the party’s social commitment. In the past it has always been  the Congress that chose  the first female PM. Indira Gandhi, and the first female President, Pratibha Patel.

64 years old Kumar, hails from a family that had always been supporting the Congress Party. Her father Jagjivan Ram, had been deputy Prime Minister. She has successfully contested election from  three different places: Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh, Karol Bagh in Delhi and Sasaram in Bihar.

The new Speaker of the Lok Sabha was part of P V Narasimha Rao’s  government ,as the deputy minister and was made a minister of Cabinet rank when the UPA took over in 2004. Meira Kumar also had various responsibilities  in the hierarchy of the  Congress Party as General Secretary.

Choosing her may also be a Congress masterstroke in view of the move being made by the BJP to project another woman, Sushma Swaraj, as the possible deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and the emergence of Mayawati, leader of Baujan Sajawadi Party, as a Dalit icon.

Kumar graduated  in 1973 as Indian Foreign Service officer and for 12 years she served in Indian embassies in Madrid, London and also in the ministry of external affairs in Delhi. She quit her job to be elected to the Parliament from Bijnor in 1985.

The BJP also wanted to score a first proposing as Deputy Speaker a tribal, Karia Munda.

 

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