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Monday, June 01, 2009 02:45:44 PM, | Agencies

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New Delhi: After wreaking surprise two years back by fielding Pratibhatai Patil as Congress nominee for the Presidential election who finally went on to become First Woman President of India, Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi has come once again with a stunner. This time she has come with an idea of nominating Meira Kumar as the unanimous UPA candidate for the post of Lok Sabha (LS) Speaker.


Highly-placed sources said that the name of Meira Kumar has been finalised in the meeting of the Congress core committee held on Saturday morning. Amid speculation that she is emerging as a unanimous candidate to head the 15th Lok Sabha (LS), Meira Kumar met Sonia Gandhi on Sunday and reportedly expressed her readiness for the post. The meeting included Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also.


Meira Kumar is the daughter of veteran Dalit leader and former prime minister Babu Jagjivan Ram. She had taken the oath as a cabinet minister in the first round of swearing in when the UPA formed the government after the spectacular win in the general elections. Two days prior to the historic decision of bringing her in as the LS Speaker, she was named Minister for Water Resources.


The election for the LS speaker is scheduled on June 3 and if she wins the election, very certain owing to the clear majority the alliance has in the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar will become the first woman to hold the post of the Speaker.


"The Congress will be creating a historical milestone by opting for the first woman Speaker", AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said recalling how Congress took the lead by choosing the first woman PM, the youngest PM and the first woman President in the past.


Besides being the minister in the previous government, Meira Kumar has been MP since last five consecutive elections. She has a distinction of winning the elections from three states that include Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi. In 1985, she won the Bejnaur parliamentary constituency in Uttar Pradesh defeating Ramvilas Paswan and Mayawati, both champions of the Dalit cause.


The decision has come as a surprise choice as the name of veteran Congressman from Andhra Pradesh Kishore Chandra Deo was doing the rounds in the media for the last fortnight as the party's choice for the Speaker's post.


At the meeting on Saturday, the race appeared to have narrowed down to Kumar and former Union Minister Girija Vyas, sources said.


The post of Deputy Leader has been offered to BJP with the Prime Minister himself calling up senior BJP leader L K Advani to make the proposal, a convention that has been followed for a couple of decades.


In yet another development, the decision to move Meira Kumar, the only Minister representing Bihar, to the Speaker's choice had revived the hope of former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav to be inducted in the cabinet.


Also in the race for the ministerial berth from Bihar is the Congress MP from Kishan Ganj Maulana Israrul Haque Qasmi. The Muslim groups are expressing their unhappiness over the disproportionate representation in the Union Cabinet.

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