There’s a kind of mystic magic when you find an unlikely hero. How many of us would have predicted, before the start of the T20 World Cup, that Axar Patel would be competing for headline space with the big boys: Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, Rohit Sharma? Far from the Caribbean beaches, in Lutyens’ Delhi, another unlikely hero has emerged: Awadhesh Prasad.

In the very short, just concluded inaugural session of the 18th Lok Sabha, Awadhesh Prasad was my (unlikely) hero. My first glimpse of him was from the special visitors gallery in the Lok Sabha. I was seated there as the 127 newly-elected MPs from the last three states (in alphabetical order — Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal) took their oath, one Member of Parliament at a time.

The ceremony is predictable. The Protem Speaker announces the name of the new MP. Rise in your seat. Walk up to the lectern. Read the oath. Enthusiastically add a slogan (later, slogan gets deleted from the records, because the rules don’t permit it), complete oath. Shake hands or exchange a namaskar with the Presiding Officer. Sign register. Done. Next.

It’s around 4 pm on a drowsy afternoon in Lok Sabha on the second and final day of the taking of oaths. From my perch in the gallery, I do a quick head count. There aren’t more than 150 MPs in the House. And yet, when the Protem Speaker announces, “Awadhesh Prasad, Faizabad”, there is a lusty cheer from the full contingent of Samajwadi Party and Trinamool Congress MPs present.

Festive offer

The first-time MP stands up. Nice and easy. Unhurried. Adjusts his red cap, which members of the SP usually wear. Waves to fellow MPs. Acknowledges his leader seated next to him. Holds up his copy of the Constitution of India. Soaks in the moment and then struts up to take his oath. Struts? Yes. Here’s the man who won a significant victory in Ayodhya, which is a part of the Faizabad parliamentary constituency.

Cut to the Lok Sabha visitors gallery. Seated next to me is my colleague and SP’s Rajya Sabha Parliamentary party leader, Professor Ram Gopal Yadav. He enthusiastically conducts a quick, private tutorial for me. It goes somewhat like this.

Awadhesh Prasad, SP, won Faizabad. So he actually defeated the BJP by 54,000 votes in Ayodhya. This is big. He is from the Dalit community. His win is even more special as this is a non-reserved constituency. He is 78 years old and a nine-time MLA. He studied Law at Lucknow University and entered politics soon after. He contested his first Assembly election from Sohawal in Ayodhya district in 1974. He is bilingual.

In the next 24 hours, a certain Banerjee political duo started working the phones. As always, laser focused, they had earlier suggested the four criteria in the search for a Deputy Speaker candidate for the INDIA bloc: a) An out of the box name for powerful messaging; b) A seasoned politician; c) Our choice should rattle the BJP and d) Choose from one of the parties with 20+ MPs.

Text messages, conversations and effective coordination were fully on. Power play. All on board. Awadhesh Prasad will be the candidate for Deputy Speaker.

Article 93 mandates that the Lok Sabha “shall” and “as soon as may be” elect a Deputy Speaker, underlining both the necessity and urgency of this action. For the first time in the history of Independent India, the Constitutional position of the Deputy Speaker was left vacant for five years (2019-2024) in the 17th Lok Sabha. The 16th Lok Sabha’s Deputy Speaker was elected on the 71st day. For the 13th, 14th and 15th Lok Sabhas, the Deputy Speaker was elected on the eighth day.

During the Budget session, the INDIA bloc will certainly up the ante on the issue of installing a Deputy Speaker. Expect the NDA to be on the back foot and delay that election. In cricketing terms, INDIA timed the ball sweetly on the opening days of Parliament. Visible teamwork. Egos were tucked away in the back pockets of flannels. More unlikely heroes will be found.

Team India. Thank you for showing us how it’s done.

PS It must be said, the new captain of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha has got off to a good start.

The writer is MP and leader, All India Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party (Rajya Sabha)