New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party’s Om Birla is all set to become the speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha. He will succeed 76-year-old Sumitra Mahajan, who did not contest the parliamentary elections this time.
According to reports, the two-time MP from Rajasthan’s Kota is considered to be close to BJP chief Amit Shah.
On June 17, President Ram Nath Kovind swore-in Virendra Kumar, seven-term legislator from Tikamgarh, Madhya Pradesh, as the pro-tem speaker to oversee the oath ceremony of all new members. His role will cease once he presides over the election of a new speaker.
Parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi told reporters that all the parties have been given notice to support Birla’s candidature for the post of Lok Sabha speaker.
“The BJD, Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, National People”s Party, Mizo National Front, Lok Janshakti Party, YSRCP, JDU, AIADMK and Apna Dal have given the notice to support Birla’s candidature for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker. I have spoken to Congress leaders K Suresh and Ghulam Nabi Azad. They have not signed till now but I think they would not oppose,” Joshi told reporters.
ANI reported that Birla’s wife, Amita, confirmed his nomination. “It is a very proud and a happy moment for us. We are very thankful to the cabinet for choosing him.”
Fifty-seven-year-old Birla has been associated with the Sangh parivar since his student days. He was a member of the students’ union from his college in 1979 and then, as a key leader of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, played an important role in the BJP-led Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the 1990s. He has also served as one of the vice-presidents of the BJP.
It is interesting that his name was proposed soon after J.P Nadda, former Union health minister, took over as the working BJP president. Nadda was the president of the BJP youth wing when Birla was the vice-president, and both are believed to have worked closely.
The 56-year-old has been associated with the BJP youth wing and has also been in charge of the organisational revamp in Rajasthan in 2018 when the then Vasundhara Raje Scindia government was facing strong anti-incumbency sentiment.
Birla first contested as an MLA from Kota in 2003 and kept winning the seat until 2014, when he was picked up to represent the Kota-Bundi Lok Sabha constituency.
According to Firstpost, “he was instrumental in leading a movement to set up an Indian Institute of Technology in Kota and ensure the supply of water from the Chambal river to Bundi district.”
India Today reported that in his decade and a half legislative role, he has had a fairly clean career except one case in 2018.
Birla’s former secretary, Mahendra Gautam, had accused Birla of accumulating assets disproportionate to his income. He has also sought police protection alleging he was getting death threats from the Kota MP. However, the case was dismissed by the Rajasthan high court in April 2019.
The election for new Lok Sabha speaker will be held on June 19.