BJP's tribal answer to Cong's Dalit card

NEW DELHI: BJP sought to counter the Dalit card played by Congress while selecting its candidate for the Lok Sabha Speaker's post by nominating
former Union minister Karia Munda, one of the seniormost tribal leaders of the country, for the Deputy Speaker's post.

On a day when Meira Kumar filed her nomination papers for the Speaker's post, BJP's central parliamentary board cleared the candidature of Mr Munda, a sixth-term MP from Khunti constituency in Jharkhand, for the Deputy Speaker's job.

With the ruling side and the opposition pledging their support for the two candidates, both Ms Kumar and her deputy will be elected by consensus. The former will be formally coronated as Speaker on Wednesday. Interestingly, both the Speaker and her deputy hail from undivided Bihar.

While the 64-year-old Ms Kumar retained her Sasaram Lok Sabha seat from Bihar, Mr Munda (72) wrested the Khunti constituency from Congress after a gap of five years.
"BJP's central parliamentary board held a meeting today in the wake of the government's proposal that, as per convention, Deputy Speaker's post be given to the main opposition party. The parliamentary board decided to name six-time party MP in the Lok Sabha, Karia Munda, as the candidate for the post," party general secretary Arun Jaitley told newspersons here on Tuesday.

One of the seniormost leaders of the party, Mr Munda was a minister in the Morarji Desai government and, later, in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee ministry. He was earlier an MLA in Bihar and later in Jharkhand. When asked whether Mr Munda’s candidature was done with the aim of winning the backing of tribals for the party, Mr Jaitley said: "It is true that Mr Munda belongs to the ST community, but along with that, he has a vast legislative experience and this decision was made considering his seniority."

Mr Munda, who's known for his proximity to Mr Vajpayee, was party MLA in Jharkhand before being elected to the Lok Sabha from his traditional
backyard of Khunti.

Ms Kumar, in the meanwhile, filed her nomination papers for the Speaker's post on Tuesday. As many as 13 sets were filed, with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi leading the pack of proposers. She proposed the first set, which was seconded by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee. One set of nomination papers was filed by the principal opposition party, BJP. While L K Advani proposed her name, it was endorsed by former Union minister Sushma Swaraj.

"We have filed 13 sets of nomination papers. The first set was signed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and I have seconded it," Mr Mukherjee told newspersons in Parliament after the nomination paper-filing ceremony. He added the Leader of the Opposition L K Advani had also signed a set of nomination papers.

Among others who filed nomination papers on her behalf included Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel of NCP, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Shailendra Singh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, Arjun Charan Sethi and Bhratruhari Mahtab of BJD, Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD), Farooq Abdullah (NC) and E Ahamed (Muslim League).

A visibly overwhelmed Ms Kumar later described her nomination as a "historic" moment. "It is a historic moment. It is a very overwhelming moment for me," the five-term member of the Lok Sabha told newspersons after UPA had filed nomination papers on her behalf for the post of Speaker. She said leaders of all political parties had proposed her name for the coveted post. "It is a historic moment as a woman has been considered for this important and august post," Ms Kumar said.