It is parliamentary convention and a constitution requirement that Lok Sabha has a deputy speaker. But this Lok Sabha, which is nearing the end of its tenure, never had one.
Elections were never held for the post, which, by convention, goes either to the Opposition or a supporting party of the ruling alliance.
The dearth was felt today as parliament experienced its biggest security breach since the 2001 terror attack.
This afternoon, two men had carried in yellow canisters into the Lok Sabha visitors’ gallery evading all security barriers.
During parliament proceedings, one of them jumped into the Lok Sabha floor from the visitors’ gallery and activated the canister, releasing thick yellow smoke. The two were arrested, so were three others. One person who was allegedly part of the conspiracy, is on the run.
Later, the Speaker, Om Birla, moved a request to the Home Ministry through the Secretary General for a probe into the incident.
The Deputy Speaker, by convention, heads and manages the security aspects of parliament.
After the 2001 parliament attack — when 15 people, including five terrorists, died — the Joint Parliamentary Committee formed to deal with it, was headed by then Deputy Speaker, Congress’s PM Sayeed.
During Somnath Chatterjee’s tenure as the Speaker, when Charanjit Singh Atwal was his Deputy, many mock security drills were held. So much so it drew flak from the government and MPs, who criticised Mr Chatterjee for allowing security drills when parliament was in session.
In 2007, parliament was shut down and adjourned for a while on the basis of some security-related intelligence inputs from the American consulate in Chennai. The information, however, turned out to be a hoax.
The new parliament building was expected to address all security concerns and meet the parameters for the 21st Century.
But it was found not to even have body scanner machines, which are present in airports of the country. These machines will now be installed in parliament.
Late this evening, the Union Home Ministry ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident following a call by Speaker Om Birla. A full-fledged probe is expected to address the security concerns.