Trinamool Upset Over Speaker Nomination. Last-Minute Decision, Say Sources

Congress sources said it was a last-minute decision and they had to take a call on the issue 10 minutes before the noon deadline.

Trinamool Upset Over Speaker Nomination. Last-Minute Decision, Say Sources
New Delhi:

The drama and acrimony over the Lok Sabha Speaker post generated a sideshow in the INDIA bloc -- a touch of post-election tension between Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and the Congress, which have not always been the best of friends.  The nomination of K Suresh for the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker had ruffled feathers in the Trinamool camp, which claimed it was a unilateral decision by the Congress.

Congress sources said it was a last-minute decision -- that they had to take a call 10 minutes before the noon deadline and no consultation could be held for obvious reasons.

Mr Suresh, who will be contesting against the BJP's former Speaker Om Birla, reached out to the Trinamool Congress and sought its support, sources said. Congress's Rahul Gandhi also met Trinamool's second-in-command Abhishek Banerjee to explain the sudden decision to contest.

The matter was resolved shortly and Trinamool said it would join the INDIA bloc meeting this evening at the residence of Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.

Earlier, senior Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay had said the party was not consulted. "I saw on TV and came to know... Derek O'Brien came and asked me and I said there has been no discussion," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. "The Congress must explain. It (the reason) is best known to them," he said.

Asked whether Trinamool will consider supporting Mr Suresh, he said, "We will have a meeting and discuss and our leader will take a call... it is a party decision".

In a first, the Opposition has decided to force an election for the post of the Speaker, fielding Mr Suresh, who they initially expected to be picked as the pro tem Speaker. But the BJP picked Bhartruhari Mahtab, its key leader from Odisha. The Opposition fielded Mr Suresh for the permanent position after the government did not respond to their demand for a Deputy Speaker -- a post traditionally filled from the Opposition ranks.

Congress's Rahul Gandhi said though Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said the Opposition should constructively support the government, "he does not want any constructive cooperation". As an example, Mr Gandhi said Union minister Rajnath Singh – tasked to build consensus on the Speaker post – did not call Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge, which is "an insult to our leader".

"The Deputy Speaker position should have gone to the Opposition," he also told reporters outside parliament.

Under the circumstances, the Congress decided to escalate the issue and fielded Mr Suresh just 10 minutes ahead of deadline.