Guess who were the leaders whom Meira Kumar, the present Lok Sabha Speaker, defeated when she contested her first parliamentary election? Mayawati and Ram Vilas Paswan.
It may sound unbelievable today, but it’s true.
After serving in the Ministry of External Affairs from 1973 to 1985, she quit the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and joined politics at the behest of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
In 1985, she decided to contest the Lok Sabha bypoll from Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh.
Mayawati, a protégé of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Kanshi Ram, was then a struggling leader trying to learn the ropes. The third candidate was Ram Vilas Paswan, who, in December 1984, had lost from his bastion Hajipur in Bihar. Hajipur was the same constituency from where Paswan had won with a record margin in 1977 and entered Guinness Book of World Records. But following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, he sank like a Titanic in 1984 polls.
“It was Rajivji who persuaded me to give up IFS and join the hurly-burly of Indian politics.
And it was he who actually insisted that I make my political debut from Bijnore, although it was quite far off from my father’s traditional constituency Sasaram in Bihar,” Meira once told Deccan Herald. When the election results came, Meira won hands down, riding the Congress wave. The other two Dalit leaders had to bite the dust.
Since then, there has been no looking back for this soft-spoken and suave leader, who now represents Sasaram.
But before she became an MP from Sasaram in 2004, Meira won the Karol Bagh Lok Sabha seat twice: Once in 1996 and then again in 1998. Prior to this, she was appointed as member of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) in 1991. In 1992, she was made an AICC general secretary.
In UPA-I, she was appointed Cabinet minister in charge of Social Justice and Empowerment.
In UPA-II, days before her elevation as Speaker in May 2009, she was initially appointed Union Water Resources Minister.
But in the next 48 hours, she had to quit as minister since destiny had something else in store for her.
A new chapter was written in the history of Indian Parliament when Meira became country’s first woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha.