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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar/New Delhi: Prior to the elections for the posts of Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha, speculations are now rife about the five senior parliamentarians of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the race for the Speaker.

Former Union ministers Jual Oram, SS Ahluwalia and Maneka Gandhi are in contention for the post of Lok Sabha speaker as the party top brass deliberates to finalise its choice. Former Union ministers Radha Mohan Singh and Virender Kumar are also among the probable candidates to succeed Sumitra Mahajan, sources claimed.

The first session of the new Lok Sabha is scheduled to begin on June 17 while elections to the post of Speaker and Deputy Speaker will be held on June 19.

Eight-term MP Gandhi is the most experienced BJP lawmaker in Lok Sabha and is being seen as a natural choice for the Speaker's post. She is also likely to be appointed as pro-tem Speaker, being the senior most parliamentarian in the 17th Lok Sabha.

Considering the fact that the last tribal to occupy the post was P Sangma during the NDA reign, if BJP opts for a tribal face this time, certainly Jual Oram would emerge as the choice of the party's top leadership.

Ahluwalia was a minister of state for parliamentary affairs in the previous government and is known for his knowledge of legislative matters.

Radha Mohan Singh, a six-term MP, has emerged as a strong contender for the job due to his deep roots in the organisation and image of an affable and gentle leader, the sources said.

Also a six-time MP, Virender Kumar's Dalit identity might work in his favour, party sources said.

Speculations are also rife that the post of deputy speaker may go to the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) this time and that Cuttack MP Bhartruhari Mahtab, who was awarded the best parliamentarian award for 2017, is being considered for the post.

Speaking on this, Odisha new health minister Naba Kishore Das stated that decision in this regard will be taken by BJD supremo and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

In the 16th Lok Sabha, the post of deputy speaker was held by M Thambi Durai of the AIADMK.

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