From ensuring the atmosphere of the Lower House remains "as delicious as Kota kachoris" to giving equal opportunities to small parties and Independent MPs, Speaker Om Birla was greeted with an array of requests after being elected to preside over the 17th Lok Sabha.
Birla was unanimously elected for the chair with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Opposition assuring him of their whole-hearted support in the smooth conduct of proceedings in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The newly-elected Speaker, in turn, thanked all the members for entrusting him with the responsibility to run the House and advised all members to ensure that the last man's voice reaches the House. He also thanked the prime minister and the ruling party for their support.
Modi, who moved the motion for the election of Birla, gave a lengthy introduction to the new Speaker's political career.
The prime minister also heaped praise on the two-time BJP MP for his long public life, going back to his student days, and recalled his social work in Kota, Rajasthan, and in other parts of the country, including during the 2011 earthquake in Gujarat and the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand.
Welcoming the new Speaker, Modi said, "I, on behalf of the government and the treasury benches, assure you full support in conducting the House. I also assure you that your order will prevail and you must be tough even if anyone from our side (treasury benches) crosses the limit."
But the 57-year-old Kota MP was also reminded by the Opposition that he must uphold the virtues of the position he holds.
MPs express hope Speaker won't behave as a ruling party MP
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, DMK's TR Baalu and TMC's Sudip Bandyopadhyay were among those who backed Birla and urged him to be impartial as presiding officer of the lower house.
Chaudhary, while extending whole-hearted support to Birla, urged him to be impartial and give enough time to the Opposition to raise issues of public interest. He said the presiding officer is the custodian of the House, which according to Jawaharlal Nehru, represents the nation and freedom of the country.
Chowdhury quoted Modi's first speech in the 17th Lok Sabha where he said that the House should aspire to not be divided on the lines of paksh (Treasury) or vipaksh (Opposition) but should remain nishpaksh. Chowdhury, however, pointed out that Lok Sabha was a space that should remain bahupakshiya (multilateral) and only the Speaker should remain nishpaksh (unbiased).
In his welcome speech for Birla, Chowdhury also said that during the last session very few Bills were sent to Standing Committees for scrutiny, while many a times the government adopted the Ordinance route to completely bypass the Lok Sabha. Chowdhury hoped for a reversal of the trend, reminding Birla that he will be the custodian of the House.
Pinaki Mishra of the BJD also expressed similar concerns.
Modi, meanwhile, advised Birla to maintain his trademark smile while taking on the high pressure job. However, amid praise for Birla and talk of cooperation in the House, Modi also slipped in a few comments about the usual ruckus in Lok Sabha, which especially marred several Parliament sessions previously. Modi said that earlier only the year of the general election was a tough one in the House while the remaining years went smoothly, but now in view of one election or another the House is mostly in disarray. Modi told Birla that he should not shy away from chiding any Member of the Parliament, even if it is the prime minister himself, or members of the Treasury Benches, if they ever misbehaved in the House.
Birla accepted the greetings of the MPs with a smile and thanked all of them for their words. Seeking to assuage the Opposition's concern over his role and political leanings, Birla, in his thank you note to the House, said that the members should remain assured that he will try his best to remain fair and unbiased as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. He said he will strive to provide equal opportunities to each and every member irrespective of their political affiliation or size of their respective parties.
Birla also had a sage advice for the ruling side. Addressing the House, Birla said that the Modi-led government, which will be serving its second term, is more answerable to the people of India than ever because the people reposed their faith in them. He thanked the prime minister, his party and all the other members of the House for putting their faith in him.
Birla, a surprise pick for the post, won his first Lok Sabha election in 2014 and was again elected this year from Rajasthan's Kota-Bundi seat. The 56-year-old leader is considered to be close to both Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah. He succeeds eight-term MP Sumitra Mahajan as the speaker, a post traditionally held by senior MPs.
Birla was declared elected and the Speaker by pro-tem Speaker Virendra Kumar. Modi led the new Speaker to the presiding officer's chair. Several leaders from BJP, Congress, DMK, TMC went up the podium to greet Birla. Though the Congress and the DMK had moved notices for supporting Birla as the Speaker well past the 12 noon Tuesday deadline, the pro-tem speaker allowed it to be included as a "special case".
There was no candidate in the fray other than Birla and the motion moved by the prime minister to choose the Kota-Bundi MP as the speaker was adopted by a voice vote. A total of 13 motions were moved in support of Birla. Since the motion moved by Modi, also the Leader of the House, was adopted, the other motions became infructuous.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2019 14:35:46 IST