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First woman Speaker
Published on 4 Jun. 2009 1:02 AM IST
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History was made in the country Wednesday when diplomat-turned-politician Meira Kumar, 64, became the first woman speaker of the Lok Sabha - the lower house of parliament - with MPs cutting across party lines to elect the Dalit leader. The newly elected members of the 15th Lok Sabha watched in rapt attention as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani, who were engaged in a bitter war of words until a month ago, together led Meira Kumar to the podium. “In many ways it is a historic event as it is for the first time that a Congress woman member of house has been unanimously elected as speaker,” Manmohan Singh said, evoking thunderous applause in the splintered 545-member Lok Sabha. She assured the house that she would be judicious and give all members equal opportunity to speak. Meira Kumar told a press conference later: “It was a historic decision to elect a woman speaker. I am deeply honoured that I have been elected the first woman speaker of the great and vibrant democracy that we have.” Later, when journalists asked her if men should be scared now that India has a woman president and a speaker, she laughed: “Well, I think so.” The prime minister said he hoped the “charm” and “grace” of the new speaker would “calm frayed tempers that sometimes happen in the house”, evoking widespread laughter from MPs. The Lok Sabha speaker’s status in the Warrant of Precedence is next only to the president, vice president and prime minister. Meira Kumar is the 16th speaker of the Lok Sabha. Advani said, “I read (in newspapers) that your voters are disappointed with your election as speaker but I feel you will be able to serve the people better in this position than as a minister.” Jaitley named opposition leader in RS Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Wednesday named Arun Jaitley as opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha and Sushma Swaraj as deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. Advani, who was named leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, was authorised by the BJP parliamentary party to choose office-bearers of the party in the two houses. He named S.S. Ahluwalia as deputy leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha. While Maya Singh was named chief whip of the party in Rajya Sabha, Ramesh Bais was named the party’s chief whip in the lower house.

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