New Delhi: Meira Kumar on Wednesday made history in the Lok Sabha when she was unanimously elected its Speaker and thus became the first woman to occupy one of the high Constitutional posts.
64-year-old Kumar, Congress’ dalit face, a former foreign service official and union minister, was elected after a resolution moved by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and seconded by leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee was approved by a voice vote amidst thumping of desks by the entire House.
Earlier, leaders cutting across the political spectrum, including LK Advani (BJP), Mamata Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), T R Baalu (DMK), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD), Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad (RJD), Ram Sundar Das (JD-U), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Farooq Abdullah (NC) and E Ahmed (Muslim League) also tabled their motions proposing Kumar for the post.
Presiding officer: Meira Kumar describes her appointment as the Lok Sabha Speaker as a historic moment in India’s politics. B. Mathur / Reuters
After Gandhi’s motion was approved by a voice vote, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mukherjee and Advani escorted Kumar, who was sitting in the front benches, to the Speaker’s Chair.
After Kumar took the Chair, Singh hailed her election as a historic moment and said her services as a distinguished diplomat, 25 years in Parliament and her role as a minister would stand her in good stead to execute her onerous job well.
From being a foreign service officer to a five-term MP and then a Cabinet minister, Meera Kumar has traversed a long way and a varied course that will come in handy to her in running the Lok Sabha that often throws itself into scenes of tumult.
She had a steady rise in the echelons of power becoming the first woman to occupy the high office of Lok Sabha Speaker.
The career of Kumar in the rough and tumble of politics began when she quit her cushy IFS job and decided to fight the polls in 1985, a year before her father’s death.
She was elected to Lok Sabha for the first time from Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh in 1985, defeating Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan.
Kumar became an MP again in 1996 and in 1998 from Delhi’s Karol Bagh constituency but lost her seat in 1999 when NDA returned to power. She was re-elected in 2004 with a huge margin from Sasaram in Bihar, the constituency of her father.
In between, she had quit Congress for two years from 2000 citing differences with the party leadership. She rejoined the party in 2002.
Soft-spoken Kumar became a Cabinet minister in the 2004 government of Manmohan Singh. She held the Social Justice and Empowerment portfolio.
Kumar was appointed a Cabinet minister for a second time by Singh last week but resigned from the government on Sunday night after being chosen for Speakership.
Armed with a degree in law and a masters in English, she joined the IFS in 1973 and served in the embassies in Spain, the UK and Mauritius. She also served as a member of the India-Mauritius Joint Commission.
She was made an AICC general secretary for two years from 1990 and again from 1996 to 1998. She became a member of the Congress Working Committee in 1990 and continued for ten year till 2000. After a gap of two year, she was reinducted in the CWC in 2002 and remained its member till 2004.
As an MP, she served, among others, as a member of the Consultative Commitee attached to the External Affair Ministry, Public Accounts Committee, Committee on Home Affairs and its Sub-Committee on Personnel Policy of Central Para-Military Forces and Joint Committee on Empowerment of Women. She was also a member of Committees on Food and Consumer Affairs and Environment and Forests.