Who is Om Birla, the new Lok Sabha speaker?

Who is Om Birla, the new Lok Sabha speaker?

His appointment is a message to Rajasthan.

The second-time MP from Kota—a city known for its coaching institutes—Om Birla pipped a number of his senior colleagues to be nominated as the 17th Lok Sabha speaker.

Birla’s name was announced a day after the BJP picked Rajya Sabha MP J.P. Nadda as the working president till organisational elections take place in December-January. Nadda is a Brahmin from Himachal Pradesh, and Birla belongs to Vaishya community, both BJP’s core support bases. Birla’s nomination came as a surprise to most BJP leaders, but it was a decision in line with the Modi-Shah strategy to keep things under wraps. He is also considered close to the party president Amit Shah.

56-years-old, Birla was earlier a three-time MLA from Rajasthan. He started off as student leader to become national vice president of the BJP’s youth wing. He entered Lok Sabha in 2014 for the first time, after defeating Congress MP Ijyaraj Singh. Even during his first assembly elections, in 2013, Birla had defeated seasoned Congress MLA Shanti Dhariwal.

Kota has been a traditional BJP seat, with Jan Sangh also holding it for considerable time. Birla has been associated with the RSS and was imprisoned in Uttar Pradesh after active participation in the Ram Temple agitation. He is known to nurture his constituency well.

Birla’s work in the parliament also holds him in good stead. In the last five years, he has presented six private members’ bills, asked 671 questions, participated in 163 debates, and had an attendance of 86 per cent. Even when he was an MLA, he was credited for asking more than 500 questions in the 13th Rajasthan Legislative Assembly and his name was cited as one of the main debaters.

Politically, Birla’s nomination is also a message to the Rajasthan electorate, which had given all the 25 Lok Sabha seats back to the BJP. Also, with a Congress government in power in the state, more representation to someone from the state will help the BJP. He will be the first Speaker to hail from Rajasthan. Balram Jakhar, who had roots in Punjab, was once elected from Sikar, and became Speaker in 1980.