Why assembly speakers tend to suffer defeat
An analysis of elections shows that seven of the 11 incumbent speakers in the past lost the elections. Incidentally, Kagodu Thimmappa, Koliwad’s predecessor, too lost the election on Tuesday. “I was an active speaker dedicating a lot of my time to the affairs of the house and could not give time to my constituency,” said Koliwad.
Pointing to the trend of speakers losing polls, political observer L Vasudevamurthy said many politicians are even wary of becoming speakers as they think it is a jinx. “The classic case is that of Jagadish Shettar who fought not to become the speaker, before succumbing to party pressure,” he said.
But Shettar, along with BJP’s SM Krishna, are part of a different pattern: both went on to become chief ministers. In fact, Shettar, who was the speaker between 2008 an 2009 went on to become the CM in the same term. Krishna was the speaker between 1989 and 1993, then became a deputy chief minister before becoming CM in 1999.
Krishna, KG Bopaiah (speaker between 2009-13) and VS Koujalagi (speaker between 1993-94) are the only ones to win the polls after their term as speakers, while former speaker BG Banakar’s seat was given to BH Bannikod in the polls soon after his term as speaker.
The speaker is a key functionary of the executive, and his role as the presiding officer of the house is as important as that of the legislators. But most past speakers have been shown that people don’t feel that way and this is reflected in their electoral losses.
Said former speaker N Krishna (KR Pete Krishna): “We lose connect with people as speakers cannot behave like other politicians and indulge in populist programmes. This affects how we work in our constituencies. Also, while people give concessions to ministers, the speaker’s profile is not as glamorous. Since our activity is restricted to playing referee in the assembly, people don’t see us.”
However, Bopaiah argues that it is an excuse that many speakers make and that one need not compromise work in the constituency just because he is a speaker.
“The speaker should not completely forget that he is also an MLA. I was an MLA for my constituency, but a presiding officer in the house. I had to maintain that distinction, but carry out both roles. The speaker’s position doesn’t limit you from carrying out your duty as an MLA as commonly believed. It, in fact, brings many powers. A speaker is allowed to even summon the chief minister and issue directions to look into issues of his constituency. My style of functioning was different and it has worked.”