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Meet India's new Lok Sabha speaker, RSS worker Om Birla

Those familiar with the soft-spoken Speaker candidate will vouch for the organisational capabilities of the two-time MP from Kota.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Jun 19, 2019, 11.54 AM IST
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Om Birla likely to be next Lok Sabha Speaker
Om Birla likely to be next Lok Sabha Speaker
New Delhi: In 2003, the BJP fielded a little-known 41-year-old, Om Birla, to take on Rajasthan’s urban development and housing minister Shanti Dhariwal. Not many expected the rookie to win, but he surprised everyone when he defeated the minister. On Tuesday, he created another surprise when the National Democratic Alliance announced him as its Speaker candidate for the Seventeenth Lok Sabha. Sixteen years later, Birla is no longer a rookie having won three assembly polls and two Lok Sabha elections.

“It’s a pleasant surprise for me as well. Even I had no information earlier. I am thankful to the NDA and BJP leadership for choosing me for this coveted post,” said an elated Birla after his candidature as Speaker was announced.

Those familiar with the soft-spoken Speaker candidate will vouch for the organisational capabilities of the two-time MP from Kota.

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Known for his undeterred loyalty to RSS, Birla was handpicked by Amit Shah to lead BJP’s orgainsational revamp in Rajasthan in 2018 when the Raje government faced severe anti-incumbency. Although BJP lost the ensuing assembly polls, Birla was credited with restricting the damage to the party and it brought him closer to Shah’s scheme of things. Political analysts say his proximity to Shah has been decisive in his selection as NDA’s Speaker candidate.

“Birla has amazing booth-management skills of which Shah is said to be the master. This quality may have caught Shah’s attention. Birla, time and again, has proved to be a party man even when he was allegedly sidelined by former chief minister Vasundhara Raje,” said Rakesh Hada, who has known Birla since he was a 17-year-old social worker.

Birla’s 40-year career has been devoted to social service and cadre-based politics. He has been known in BJP circles as an active parliamentarian, who asked around 670 questions in the last Lok Sabha. His bio profile on the Lok Sabha website states that he was imprisoned in UP during the Ram Mandir construction movement.

He has also served as deputy to BJP working president JP Nadda in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha. Birla has the distinction of winning all five electoral battles he contested. As a first-timer in the Rajasthan assembly, he was made parliamentary secretary during Raje’s first tenure (2003-2008).

In 2008-13, when BJP lost power in Rajasthan, Birla played an active role in cornering the Congress government in the assembly over issues like water, employment and agrarian problems especially in his Hadoti region. In 2013, he achieved a hat trick of assembly election victories but quit his seat in 2014 to make his Parliament debut from Kota-Bundi. Birla is articulate in Hindi and has actively participated in debates in Parliament and the Rajasthan assembly.
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