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Friday, 10 May, 2002, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Indian MPs elect far-right speaker
Manohar Joshi (left) is congratulated by PM Atal Behari Vajpayee
Mr Joshi (left) is being hailed as a consensus candidate
India's lower house of parliament has formally endorsed a new speaker from the Hindu extremist Shiv Sena party.


The choice of the speaker from Shiv Sena sends disturbing signals

Communist Party of India

Manohar Joshi, former minister for heavy industry, was elected unopposed by members of the 545-seat Lok Sabha.

Previous speaker GMC Balayogi was killed in a helicopter crash in March.

The BBC's Delhi correspondent, Jill McGivering, says Mr Joshi is being hailed as a consensus candidate, but some analysts see his appointment as a consolidation of right-wing forces within parliament.

The ultra-right-wing Shiv Sena, the third largest party in the BJP-led coalition, had been complaining that it was under-represented in the government.

Shaken loyalties

Our correspondent says the move could strengthen the BJP's ties with Shiv Sena and send appeasing signals to its traditional Hindu support base.

Indian parliament
The opposition did not field a candidate

But the choice of a Hindu extremist may worry other members of the coalition, she adds.

Their loyalty has already been shaken by the government's determination to stand by the chief minister of Gujarat, who is widely accused of supporting continuing anti-Muslim violence.

Mr Joshi, 65, is a former chief minister of Maharashtra who describes himself as a self-made man.

He started his career as a teacher, before becoming a successful businessman and rising through the political ranks of Shiv Sena.

Misgivings

Some opposition MPs were swift to express their misgivings at his appointment.

Manohar Ganjanan Joshi
Mr Joshi rose through the ranks in Maharashtra

"He is from a party which is known for its communal politics and we do not know how impartial his rulings will be," one unnamed MP told the French news agency AFP.

The Communist Party of India said in a statement: "At a time when the entire country is seriously concerned about the ongoing pogrom against minorities in Gujarat, the choice of the speaker from Shiv Sena sends disturbing signals."

The opposition did not field a candidate - bowing to the tradition that the speaker is chosen by the government and deputy speaker by the opposition.

"We have no say in the matter. Even if we oppose, the government has the numbers to get him elected," main opposition Congress party leader Ambika Soni said.

See also:

09 May 02 | South Asia
Profile: Manohar Joshi
06 May 02 | South Asia
Indian MPs back Gujarat motion
15 Mar 02 | South Asia
India's secularism under threat?
28 Feb 02 | South Asia
Analysis: India's religious clashes
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