India set to have its first woman Lok Sabha speaker (Lead)

May 31st, 2009 - 8:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 31 (IANS) India is set to get its first woman Lok Sabha speaker with the Congress zeroing in on Water Resources Minister Meira Kumar, daughter of late former deputy prime minister and veteran Dalit leader Jagjivan Ram.
A five-time MP, Meira Kumar won from Sasaram in Bihar, while she had been elected earlier from Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

She quit the Indian Foreign Service which took her to embassies in Spain, Britain and Mauritius, to take to politics in 1985. A law graduate, Meira Kumar also holds a masters degree in English literature.

She was a cabinet minister for social justice and empowerment in the previous Manmohan Singh government.

Confirming that she would be the speaker, newly appointed Congress spokesperson Mohan Prakash told IANS: “It would be formalised in parliament after the election for the speaker.”

Another Congress leader, Satyavrat Chaturvedi, told a television channel that the “Congress has always encouraged Dalits, women and minorities to grow.”

Congress sources said party president Sonia Gandhi decided to pick 64-year-old Meira Kumar for the post preferring her over tribal leader from Andhra Pradesh V. Kishore Chandra Deo and Rajasthan’s Girija Vyas.

Meira Kumar, who met the Congress chief Sunday afternoon, had only two days ago taken charge as the minister for water resources in the new government.

Her chances to become the speaker brightened after party leader from Orissa and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers Srikant Jena declined to join the council of ministers since he was a cabinet minister in the past.

Since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could not expand his ministry further, Meira Kumar could thus make way for Jena, the only MP from Orissa to have found representation in the government.

Asked who was expected to be her replacement, Mohan Prakash said: “This will be decided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“It could be anybody, yes it could be him,” he said, in reply to a question if Jena was the candidate.

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