While it is certain that the Narendra Modi government will appoint an MP who it trusts can control the proceedings of the Lok Sabha, all eyes are on whether it will follow convention when it comes to the Deputy Speaker’s post.
In the previous Lok Sabha, it had given the post to M Thambidurai of the AIADMK even though J Jayalalithaa was not part of the NDA. The then Tamil Nadu chief minister had in fact, projected herself as a Prime Ministerial candidate in 2014, netting an impressive tally of 37 AIADMK MPs in the process.
The BJP’s ally, Shiv Sena, not extremely happy with the lone ministry allotted to it, is reportedly eyeing the Deputy Speaker’s post. The argument is that as the NDA’s second largest party with 18 MPs, it deserves more. Also with Maharashtra elections due later this year, the Shiv Sena wants to be seen as a party with clout at the Centre.
But if the AIADMK gesture in 2014 is anything to go by, the BJP would be more inclined to look outside the NDA. It would serve the purpose of keeping a non-NDA party in good humour. The three regional parties that have the largest numbers after the BJP and the Congress are the DMK (23), Trinamool (22) and the YSR Congress (22).
There is no question of the Trinamool being in the race given the complete breakdown in relations between the BJP and Mamata Banerjee. She has even refused to attend the Niti Aayog meeting, calling it “fruitless”.
The DMK was not even invited to the swearing-in ceremony despite its front winning 38 seats in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, decimating the NDA. With the BJP continuing to sail with the AIADMK, it is unlikely that the deputy speaker’s post will be offered to MK Stalin’s party.
YS Jaganmohan Reddy has met Modi twice in the last three weeks and in terms of optics, there is enough bonhomie on display. From the BJP’s point of view, offering the post to the YSRCP serves the purpose of irking Chandrababu Naidu, who had a bitter falling out with Modi. Two, it will prevent the possibility of Jagan being openly critical of the BJP’s refusal to grant Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh.
But for Jagan, to accept the post could be politically risky. It will open him to charges of having cut a deal with the BJP even without Modi granting SCS and give a handle to Naidu to criticise him. Two, Jagan will be more than wary of how his minorities votebank would react to his closeness to the BJP. Three, the post does not confer on the YSRCP any special privileges.
Four, Rajya Sabha MP Vijai Sai Reddy, a close confidante of Jagan, is the YSRCP’s pointsperson in Delhi and the chief minister would think twice before creating a rival power centre in the national capital. Five, even though the party has 22 Lok Sabha MPs, none of them is seen to have sufficient legislative experience of three to four terms as an MP to run the business in the Lok Sabha and control proceedings if they turn ugly.
Incidentally, when the PM was in Tirupati on Sunday, he had a one-on-one meeting with Jagan before leaving for Delhi. No one knows what transpired between the two.