Meira vows to be neutral, parries queries on quitting Cong


"I will be a neutral person" was her refrain to questions on whether she would quit the party to maintain impartiality in conducting proceedings of the House.

"Certainly the Speaker should be above board, impartial and neutral. That is what is expected of a Speaker," she said when repeatedly asked the question.

Neelam Sanjiva Reddy has been the only Lok Sabha Speaker to resign from his party -- the Congress -- after being elected to the post in March, 1967.

Incidentally, Kumar's predecessor Somnath Chatterjee, the first Left leader to adorn the post, was expelled from CPI(M) last year after he refused to follow the party directive to quit Speakership after the Left withdrew support to the Congress-led UPA government over Indo-US nuclear deal.

Kumar said she was starting the new assignment on a "positive note" as she had been assured of "undiluted" support by all political parties, groups and independent members.

"My name was proposed by all parties and after my election, every party gave me undiluted assurance that they will extend their fullest cooperation," she said adding, it would be her endeavour to be impartial in her conduct, to give opportunity to all parties and ensure healthy and meaningful debate in the House.

When her views were sought on the long-pending Women's Reservation Bill, Kumar said there was no consensus on the measure which seeks to provide 33 per cent quota to women in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures. She hoped that all parties would work to evolve a consensus.

Referring to the election of the first woman President Pratibha Patil and her own election, she said these were not symbolic gestures but indicators of genuine intention of the government to make women's position stronger in the country.

She said she personally had a strong desire that women should be empowered.

Replying to a question on the demand for having at least 100 days of sittings, she said she would speak to all parties to see how the number of sittings could be increased.
Welcoming the election of Kumar as Speaker, CPI(M) and CPI members in the House made a strong demand for making 100 days of sittings mandatory.

"I am succeeding a very tall personality. The previous Speaker was a man of great stature. He conducted the House in the best possible manner under the prevailing circumstances," Kumar said when asked if she would act as a "headmaster" like Chatterjee.

However, she added that all circumstances were not similar and she would decide how to deal with a situation.

To questions on frequent disruptions and whether MPs' salaries should be cut if they stall the proceedings, Kumar said she would speak to political parties and ensure that the set procedures and rules were followed.

Asked about the growing number of "tainted" members entering the portals of power, she said that the Election Commission had initiated reforms to prevent criminal elements from entering politics. "The people should also reject such candidates," she said.

Replying to a question whether a special package should be given to Bihar which has no representation in the Union Government, Kumar merely said Bihar needed development.

When queried about her personality and whether she gets angry and whether she cries, pat came the reply "I don't cry. But I get angry like any other person".

"My favourite colour is green. I am a green person," she said adding, the book she was reading now was 'Abhigyan Shakuntalam' by Kalidasa and the last movie she watched was Oscar-winner 'Slumdog Millionaire'.

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