Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker Post: A toss between YSR & BJD!

As BJP and BJD are political sworn enemies in Odisha and since BJP has reaped good harvest from its 'Act East' plan, YSR Congress’ chances appear bright

Bhubaneswar: With constitutional grey areas galore in the norms governing the election to the office of Deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha, the curiosity quotient in Odisha attained its zenith when CM Naveen met PM Modi in New Delhi in the backdrop of hard speculation over the post being offered to veteran BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.

Though CM Naveen Patnaik later speaking to the media denied of having any discussion with the PM on the issue of Deputy Speaker election,  the denial, however, in no way can douse the curiosity among the political observers here as there goes a popular saying that in politics one should be ever ready to expect the unexpected, notwithstanding the umpteen denials by politicians.

However, the big question is will BJP offer such a constitutional position to BJD, when daggers are drawn between the State unit of the saffron party and the BJD in the State.

Since 1977 a convention was evolved, whereby, the post of Deputy Speaker was being given to the main opposition party/bloc. However, during the Congress regime, especially during 1984 -89 when the party had a three-fourth majority, the party had offered the Deputy Speaker to its the then ally AIADMK. But since 1991, the convention of giving the post of Deputy Speaker to opposition party was again adhered to.

However, given the deep animosity between BJP and Congress during the 2014 polls, BJP led NDA post winning over 300 seats had made AIADMK leader Thambidurai the Deputy Speaker in the 16th Lok Sabha.

Cut to the 17th Lok Sabha, where BJP has won big in the 2019 LS polls and when Congress once again failed to secure the position of leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.  The  deeper wedge between BJP and Congress now in every likelihood will become a stumbling block in ruling BJP offering the deputy chair in the lower house to Congress. In every probability, like in 2014, the ruling dispensation in 2019 will also offer the deputy chair in Lok Sabha to an opposition party.

But the million dollar question is will the deputy chair in lower house come BJD way this time?

The speculation gained ground as in the BJP’s scheme of Congress mukt Parliament, only two opposition parties have the sniffing chance at the Deputy Speaker post and they are YSR Congress and BJD. Parties like DMK and TMC that have more numbers were in opposition alliance.

Going by the numbers game in Lok Sabha, BJD has mere 12 members in the lower house. In 2014,  AIADMK was offered the Deputy Speaker post as the party then had 38 MPs and was the third largest party in the 16th Lok Sabha.

In contrast, with 12 MPs BJD finished at 8th in the Lok Sabha number tally; whereas YSR Congress with 22 seats is at 4th position.

Significantly, the post of Deputy Speaker in 16th Lok Sabha was given to AIADMK (Tamil Nadu), where the BJP has a very little electoral base.

Moreover, as the BJP has drawn first blood in its ‘Act East’ poll policy post the big win, whereby, it grabbed large chunk of LS seats in Odisha and West Bengal, political watchers are of the opinion that BJP will this time offer the Deputy Speaker again to someone from South India, where the party has little cadre base.

This strategy will suit BJP politically. For instance, BJP has a little base in Andhra Pradesh. And newly anointed Andhra Pradesh CM Y Jagan Reddy has more than a cordial relation with PM Modi. Offering the Deputy Speaker to YSR Congress will kill two birds for the BJP, while on one hand it will keep Congress at bay, on the other, will help BJP in expanding its base in the State, feel observers.