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Talks on for Speaker nominee

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI MAY 7. The government today began the process of consulting the Opposition on the election of Speaker of the Lok Sabha although even internally the Bharatiya Janata Party does not seem to have zeroed in on a nominee for the post.

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pramod Mahajan, met the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, to discuss the issue. Apparently, a shortlist of five names was discussed, but for the moment, it seems that the Congress has not expressed its opinion on the names.

Over the last two days, Mr.Mahajan has also met the Congress Deputy Leader in the Lok Sabha, Shivraj Patil, as well as other opposition leaders. The non-Congress Opposition parties met separately to chalk out its own strategy on Gujarat where the Speaker election issue also came up. However, the stand taken was that so far the government had failed to come up with a concrete proposal in the form of its chosen nominee for the post.

Although on the record the Congress spokesperson, Abhishek Singhvi, said that "all options are open'' informally, the Opposition parties agree that the Speaker should be elected unanimously, and that the choice was that of the ruling coalition as the Deputy Speaker's post had already gone to the opposition.

Within the National Democratic Alliance informal consultations have begun and a formal meeting could take place tomorrow. What was stated unambiguously was that a few names were being considered, but there was nothing final even about the shortlist comprising Cabinet Ministers, Jagmohan, Shanta Kumar, Ram Naik (all BJP), and Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena) and V.K.Malhotra, the BJP chief whip and spokesperson for its parliamentary party. It was also said by some party leaders that Mr. Joshi's name was included to please the Sena chief, Bal Thackeray, who has publicly said his party was not adequately represented in the Cabinet. Clearly, the BJP does wish to see its own partyman in the job of Speaker.

By tomorrow the situation will be clearer -- nominations for the post can take place till noon of May 9 and elections are on May 10.

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