BJP’s ‘data-friendly’ MP Om Birla to be Lok Sabha Speaker
Birla, the new Speaker, is a former national vice-president of the BJP's youth wing and has been a three-time MLA of the Rajasthan assembly.
Two-time member of Parliament Om Birla -- who represents Kota-Bundi constituency in Rajasthan -- has been nominated by the Bharatiya Janata Party as the Speaker of the 17th Lok Sabha. Birla, who filed his nomination on Tuesday in the presence of senior leaders of the BJP and allied parties, is expected to be elected unopposed as the Speaker on Wednesday. Many non-NDA parties are supporting him and the Congress seems reluctant to put up an opposing candidate.
“The Biju Janata Dal and the YSRCP will support NDA candidate Om Birla for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker. We have talked to the Congress. They haven't signed the proposal yet but they won't oppose it. I have met Ghulam Nabi Azad,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahalad Joshi told reporters in the Parliament premises after Om Birla’s nomination as Lok Sabha Speaker.
Birla is a former national vice-president of the party’s youth wing and has been a three-time MLA of the Rajasthan assembly. After his third victory as a Rajasthan lawmaker in December 2013, he was handpicked by the BJP leadership to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha polls for the first time. He lived up to the expectations of the party when he defeated Congress candidate and scion of the Kota royal family Ijyaraj Singh by a whopping margin of two-lakh votes.
The electoral career of Birla, a dedicated youth worker of the BJP, began when he was chosen by the party to challenge Congress strongman and veteran Shanti Dhariwal in the 2003 assembly polls. To everyone’s surprise, including that of the party, he defeated Dhariwal by a margin of about 10,000 votes. The victory shaped his political course and Birla increased his engagement with his constituency as an MLA. He chose data-crunching and analysis as his tool to make inroads into the constituency.
“He took it as a personal challenge. He wanted to first know who were the people who voted for him and started on his work to increase his margin. He started deciphering the data and now had in-house tools, like his office sending a birthday greeting to every voter. His office has a tool which updates data on marriages in the constituency. He doesn't just send a ‘blessing’ on the marriage day but also reminds the couple of their anniversaries every year and personally talks to them. He keeps a databank of his voters and also of their needs and requests and updates the status of those requests to the applicant at regular intervals,” Pankaj Keshote, a local freelance reporter for a Hindi daily from Bhilwara told Asiaville.
He was clear that he was in politics for the long haul. His tenure as an MP starting 2014 was under focus for many ambitious projects like the hanging bridge over the Chambal river in Kota. While every MP has a fund for his constituency, he took the MPLAD to a different level by blending voluntary public collection with his MP fund and provided free books, clothes, etc. for students, Keshote added.
Birla made the data repository of his constituency and used its analysis for his political journey with the help of a voluntary force carved out of youth wing friends in the party.
Birla, 57, will succeed eight-term MP Sumitra Mahajan as Lok Sabha speaker. Mahajan had announced her decision to not contest the Lok Sabha election this time. The announcement of Birla as the BJP candidate came as a surprise, as names of senior BJP members like Jual Oram, PP Chaudhary and SS Ahluwalia were doing the rounds for the post till Monday.
Usually, a senior member is considered for the Lok Sabha Speaker's post but there have also been instances when first-time and second-time lawmakers were elected for the chair. Manohar Joshi, a first-time member, was elected as Lok Sabha Speaker in 2002. He replaced GMC Balayogi, a second-time MP who became Speaker, after the latter died in a helicopter crash.