Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the newly-appointed Congress leader of the house in Lok Sabha on Wednesday made his first major contribution in Parliament since taking up the post by congratulating and addressing the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha, Om Birla, who has been unanimously elected with even the Congress offering its support. Chowdhury, in his address, expressed the hope that the newly elected members of the house work together.
Addressing Birla as a social worker and an agriculturist, Chowdhury brought up the decades-long issue of farmers distress and said that over 36 farmers commit suicide everyday. Elaborating on the issue, Chowdhury said that he hoped that the Speaker will exercise his powers and work towards solving these crises. Chowdhury wished the Speaker on behalf of the Congress party and the citizens of India. Bringing up voter statistics pertaining to the recent Lok Sabha election, Chowdhury said that:
"This time a total of 90 crore Indians registered to vote, which is more than the population of Europe and Africa combined (not a correct claim). Among these, 67% played a part in the elections which means that around 60 crore people voted."
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He also highlighted how in Anjaw District in Arunachal Pradesh, a lone voter cast a vote. A team of six officials had trekked for two days and covered over 6 km of road to reach the voter. Chowdhury highly appreciated this instance where no voter was left behind, stated that a democracy should always be this way. Talking about his party's approach, Chowdhury said that:
"The Congress party's intentions (niyat) are genuine. We always believe in debate, dissent and decision making. So we should get chance when it comes to speaking up."
Chowdhury also mentioned that as a Speaker, Birla is the presiding officer of the house and the custodian of the house. He also stated that according to Nehru, the Speaker represents the house, the nation and moreover, freedom. Requesting the Speaker to ensure adequate representation in Standing Committees as well, he also put forth that the ordinance route was not one to be recommended.
"In parliamentary decision-making there has to be a scrutiny, where all stake holders should be considered when important decisions are made."
He further asserted that in Congress, the aim has always been to strengthen parliamentary democracy.
"Since day one we have promised to make the parliamentary democracy as strong as possible."
He later vowed that the Congress will go to any length, without any limits to work, for making it a strong house.
"We won't neglect our duties, we will strive hard."
He later appreciated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's view of working together as one house. But again brought up the instances of oath taking ceremony where a communal controversy was created by MPs' chanting and cajoling each other to use certain slogans. He urged the new Speaker to remain neutral.
He also said that this is a multi-party parliament house where religious differences should not affect the duties of anyone.
"I hope that we as members of this house work together keeping our religious differences aside." he said
Chowdhury concluded by wishing the new Speaker luck for his duties. Om Birla was chosen as the NDA candidate for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker with the support of PM Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari. Om Birla also met former Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who said that he was an old friend and that she has faith that he will handle his responsibilities at Lok Sabha very well.