Page last updated at 10:42 GMT, Tuesday, 2 June 2009 11:42 UK

India to have first woman Speaker

Meira Kumar
Ms Kumar's election as Speaker is a certainty

India's parliament is to have its first woman Speaker after a sweeping win for the Congress party in recent elections.

Meira Kumar, 64, filed her nomination papers on Tuesday and is expected to be elected unopposed on Wednesday.

Ms Kumar belongs to the low-caste Dalit - formerly untouchable - community. Her nomination has been welcomed by members of political parties across the house.

She had been sworn in as a cabinet minister, but resigned on Sunday after Congress offered her the Speaker's job.

India's newly-elected lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, began its first session on Monday.

'Historic moment'

Ms Kumar, who has been elected to parliament five times, is the daughter of the late Babu Jagjivan Ram, a prominent Dalit leader and former deputy prime minister of India.

She confirmed to reporters that she had filed her nomination papers on Tuesday.

"Tomorrow is the election and it is a historic moment and it is a very overwhelming moment for me," Ms Kumar was quoted by news agency Reuters as saying.

"Historic because a woman has been considered for this very important and august position."

Congress won a decisive mandate in the recent general elections and Ms Kumar has emerged as a consensus candidate, with the main opposition BJP and other parties also supporting her.

Ms Kumar was earlier sworn in as a minister and given charge of the water resources ministry.

Analysts say naming her as Speaker works to the advantage of the Congress as it helps the party position itself as pro-women.

It also projects Congress as a party which is concerned about the welfare of the low-caste Dalits who have faced discrimination from upper-caste Hindus for centuries.

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