NDA nominee Om Birla elected Lok Sabha speaker

NDA nominee Om Birla was elected as Lok Sabha speaker on Wednesday after a motion moved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was adopted through voice vote, capping intense debate on the issue with the opposition in a rare move proposing its own candidate.
Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla is being congratulated by Rahul Gandhi
Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla is being congratulated by Rahul Gandhi

New Delhi | NDA nominee Om Birla was elected as Lok Sabha speaker on Wednesday after a motion moved by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was adopted through voice vote, capping intense debate on the issue with the opposition in a rare move proposing its own candidate.

Pro-tem Speaker Bhartruhari Mahtab made the announcement after the opposition, which had forwarded the the name of eight-term Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh as its candidate, did not press for votes to the motion.

With this, Birla, the BJP's MP from Kota, gets a second consecutive term in the chair, the fifth time that a speaker will serve beyond the tenure of one Lok Sabha.

It is also amongst the few occasions that an election became necessary for a post conventionally decided by consensus.

"I announce Om Birla elected as the speaker," Mahtab said.

Soon after, Modi and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju went to Birla's seat in the front row of the treasury benches to escort him to the chair.

Congress leader and Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi also joined them. Gandhi greeted Birla and also shook hands with the prime minister.

After that, Modi, Gandhi and Rijiju escorted Birla to the chair where Mahtab welcomed him saying, "It is your chair, please occupy." In his address, the first in the 18th Lok Sabha, Modi said Birla's work as a parliamentarian should be an inspiration for new Lok Sabha members.

"It is a matter of honour that you have been elected to this chair for a second time," the prime minister said.

"I congratulate you on behalf of the entire House and look forward to your guidance for next five years," he said, adding that Birla's "sweet smile" keeps the entire Lok Sabha happy.

Congratulating Birla on his election, Gandhi said he hoped the opposition would be allowed to raise the voice of people in the House.

He also said the opposition wanted the House to function "often and well" and added that it was very important that cooperation happens with trust.

“This House represents the voice of people of India... Of course the government has political power, but the opposition also represents the voice of India's people," the Congress leader said.

"The opposition would like to assist you in your work. I am confident you will allow us to speak in the House," he said.

Gandhi also pointed out that the opposition this time represents significantly more voices of the Indian people than last time.

Several opposition leaders, including Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, echoed him.

"We believe you will move forward without discrimination and as the speaker, you will give equal opportunity and respect to every party. Impartiality is a great responsibility of this great post. You... are the chief justice of the court of democracy," Yadav said Birla, 62, who has risen through the ranks in the BJP, is a third-term MP of the party and also a three-term former Rajasthan MLA.

Earlier in the morning, the prime minister moved the motion for election of Birla as the speaker. It was seconded by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

NDA allies JD(U) member Rajiv Ranjan Singh, HAM(S) member Jitan Ram Manjhi, Shiv Sena member Prataprao Jadhav, LJP(RV) member Chirag Paswan also moved motions in Birla's favour.

Shiv Sena (UBT) member Arvind Sawant moved the motion to elect Congress' Suresh to the post.

However, after the voice votes, Mahtab announced that all other motions, barring the prime minister's, became infructuous.

In what some see as a sign of things to come, Birla's election follows a rare showdown by both the ruling alliance and the opposition bloc after the effort for a consensus was failed.

The opposition's last-minute decision to go for a contest came after senior BJP leaders did not agree to the precondition that the INDIA bloc must be offered the post of deputy speaker in lieu of supporting Birla.

A brief interaction involving Congress' K C Venugopal and DMK's T R Baalu from the opposition side and Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and J P Nadda on Tuesday to evolve a consensus ended in acrimony with both sides sticking to their positions.

Both opposition leaders walked out of Singh's office where they met, with Venugopal accusing the government of not following the "convention" of an opposition candidate for the deputy speaker's position and then announcing the decision to field a candidate against Birla.

Union ministers Piyush Goyal of the BJP and Lalan Singh of the JD(U) accused the opposition of resorting to pressure politics and putting forth preconditions despite senior ministers' assurance that its demand will be considered when the time to pick the Deputy Speaker comes.

With the NDA having 293 MPs in its kitty and the INDIA bloc 233 in the Lok Sabha, the numbers were clearly in favour of Birla. The Lok Sabha currently has 542 members after Rahul Gandhi resigned from one of the two seats he was elected from. At least three independent members also support the opposition.

Balram Jakhar is the only presiding officer to have served two complete terms extending seventh and eighth Lok Sabha.

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