Ritesh K Srivastva
June 03 will be remembered as a golden letter day in the country’s history when Ms Meira Kumar became the first woman to be appointed as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. The unanimous election of Meira Kumar to one of the top constitutional posts is also significant as she is the first Dalit woman to be decorated with such an honour
This former bureaucrat’s phenomenal rise to the august office will also be hailed as the Congress-led UPA government’s yet another bold initiative towards the empowerment of Indian woman.
The Congress party, which was instrumental in making Pratibha Devi Singh Patil as the first woman President of the country, clearly got an edge over other political parties by appointing Meira Kumar as the first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha.
The Congress party insiders believe that Meira Kumar emerged as an obvious choice for the post after a large section of it opposed the candidature of V Kishore Chandra Deo from Andhra Pradesh for the same especially as his ST status was under scanner.
The senior Congress leader, who now shoulders a great responsibility to maintain the integrity and the sanctity of the House, is all set to follow the foot prints of her distinguished predecessor Somnath Chatterjee.
The MP from Sasaram in Bihar faces a tough task as a woman Speaker to maintain order in the 545-member House, which often erupts into chaos at the slightest provocation.
However, a woman adorning the ‘chair’ for the first time is also expected to bring a pleasant change in the environment inside the Lower House where our lawmakers will be seen referring to "Madam Speaker" instead of traditionally prefacing their speeches with "Mr Speaker, Sir or Honourable Speaker Sir."
Meira Kumar’s felicitation as the Speaker of Lok Sabha is yet another indication of country’s robust democracy based on the principles of equality, as she was backed by all top parties including the main opposition BJP for the top job.
Congress eyeing Dalit vote bank
The Congress-led UPA decision of picking Kumar as the party`s top contender to be the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha also reflects the Grand Old party’s serious efforts aimed at wooing the Dalit voters.
This is evident from the fact that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, in his second innings, has nine Dalit leaders in the Council of Minister. Among them, four are from the Congress party and hold cabinet rank while the one other belongs to DMK.
Krishna Tirath is the sole Dalit leader from Delhi, who is one among the seven Ministers of State with independent charge.
Congress party, following its stunning comeback in politically significant states like UP,
has now shifted its focus on the marginalised and so-far neglected Dalits voters, who are now drifting away slowly from the Mayawati’s BSP.
According to political analysts, the appointment of Meira Kumar- a Dalit leader - on one of the top constitutional posts, will establish Congress party’s credentials as the party providing equal representation to Dalits.
The Congress high command’s decision to appoint Dalit leaders on top positions of authority and responsibility also aims at providing an alternative option to the Dalit community, which has so far found solace in the BSP camp.
The Dalit community, which has been relying on Mayawati as the only leader to fight for its causes, is currently dissatisfied with BSP’s poor performance and failure to deliver its promises for the uplift of Dalits.
The Congress party cannot afford to lose the Dalit vote bank, which can further revive its fortune especially after its stunning victory in UP in the recently concluded General Elections.
The bitter rivalry between SP and the BSP and right wing leader Kalyan Singh switching sides to Mulayam Singh has already distracted the traditional Muslim vote bank of the two parties towards the Congress.
If the Congress manages to make inroads into the Dalit bastion of the SP and BSP, then the Grand Old party will be unstoppable in the next assembly elections.
A leader with potential
Kumar, who has now become the new Dalit face of the Congress party, carries tons of experience and a vast understanding of the international diplomacy from her previous professional obligations as an IFS officer.
As a five-time MP, the Congress leader is also familiar with the country’s pressing domestic problems and has always championed the cause of social justice and empowerment of the downtrodden and marginalised.
Meira Kumar was born to former Deputy Prime Minister and prominent Dalit leader Babu Jagjivan Ram and freedom fighter Indrani Devi in Patna in 1945. The 64-year-old Congress leader resigned from the Union Council of Ministers shortly after her nomination for the top post.
Kumar, who is a law graduate and holds a Masters in English literature, joined the Indian Foreign Service in 1973 and served at embassies in Spain, United Kingdom and Mauritius.
Meira Kumar entered electoral politics in 1985 when she was elected from Bijnor in Uttar Pradesh. She became Member of Parliament in the 11th and 12th Lok Sabha by contesting from Karol Bagh constituency of Delhi.
In 1999, she lost her seat, but was able to get re-elected with a record majority from her father`s former constituency of Sasaram in Bihar.
In 2004, Meira was inducted into the Manmohan Singh cabinet, as Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
On May 29, 2009, Meira assumed charge as the Union Minister for Water Resources in the newly elected United Progressive Alliance government under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh.
Her husband Manjul Kumar is a well known lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court.
At a time when the pathetic situation of women still outcries our country’s new technology superpower status, ladies like Meira Kumar continue to motivate millions that one can still make a difference with his/her hard work, goodwill, modesty and perseverance.
The Zee News family extends its good wishes to Meira Kumar amidst hope that through her towering presence she will keep guiding our lawmakers to strive for excellence in the best interest of the country.
With Agency inputs