Inaugural Session of 18th Lok Sabha Begins: Speaker Election and NEET Controversy in Focus

The inaugural session of the 18th Lok Sabha is set to commence today, marking the beginning of a crucial period for the newly-elected Members of Parliament, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This first session will include the oath-taking ceremony for MPs and is anticipated to be intense, with the opposition poised to challenge the BJP-led NDA government on several fronts. Key issues include the election of the Speaker on June 26, discussions on allegations of paper leaks in NEET-UG and UGC-NET, and controversy over the appointment of the pro-tem Speaker.

President Droupadi Murmu will administer the oath to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lawmaker Bhartruhari Mahtab, who has been appointed as the pro-tem Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Mahtab will then call upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Leader of the Lok Sabha, to take his oath as a member of the House.

The election for the Lok Sabha Speaker is scheduled for June 26, followed by President Droupadi Murmu’s address to the joint sitting of both houses of Parliament on June 27. This session marks the first meeting of the 18th Lok Sabha following the general elections, where the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) secured 293 seats, and the INDIA bloc won 234, with the Congress holding 99 seats.

In light of the NEET-UG 2024 examination irregularities, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi have expressed their support for the affected students and criticized the BJP. The opposition is expected to bring this issue to the forefront during the session.

A significant point of contention is the appointment of BJP leader Bhartruhari Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker, which the opposition claims disregards the senior-most Congress member, K Suresh. The Congress has reacted sharply, arguing that the traditional practice of appointing the senior-most member was not followed, and the decision has been criticized as a deviation from parliamentary customs.

Congress MP K Suresh has stated that an eighth-term MP should have been appointed as the pro-tem Speaker, emphasizing that this deviation from tradition is being criticized nationwide. Congress MP Hibi Eden added that the NDA government has violated parliamentary customs by not appointing the senior-most member, suggesting a bias against the Dalit and oppressed communities.

President Murmu has also appointed K Suresh, Thalikkottai Rajuthevar Baalu, Radha Mohan Singh, Faggan Singh Kulaste, and Sudip Bandyopadhyay to assist the pro-tem Speaker in the oath-taking process of the newly-elected members.

The first session of the 18th Lok Sabha will run from June 24 to July 3, during which the oath/affirmation of newly-elected Members will take place. The 264th session of the Rajya Sabha will commence on June 27 and conclude on July 3. Additionally, the Samajwadi Party Parliamentary meeting will be held today in Delhi, chaired by the party’s National President Akhilesh Yadav.

The previous session of the 17th Lok Sabha, which was the Budget session, was held between January 31 and February 10, 2024.

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