New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) surprised many after it nominated two-time Rajasthan MP Om Birla as Speaker of Lok Sabha Tuesday.
He will replace veteran BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan, who held the post in the previous Modi government.
Birla, considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, was actively involved in the Ram temple movement and had even gone to jail multiple times for it.
Early life & politics
Born on 4 December 1962 in Kota, Rajasthan, to a middle-class family of Shrikrishna Birla and Shakuntala Devi, Birla completed his B.Com and M.Com from Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati University, Ajmer, in 1984 and 1986, respectively. He got married to Dr Amita Birla on 11 March 1991. The couple has two daughters, Akansha and Anjali.
He was actively involved in student politics and was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP. He was the president of students’ association of Government Senior Secondary School Gumanpura, Kota, at the age of 17. Later, he became the joint secretary of Rajasthan College of Commerce, Kota. He has been the BJYM’s national vice-president for six years and the outfit’s Rajasthan president for as many years.
In his first electoral fight, Birla defeated Congress heavyweight and former cabinet minister Shanti Dhariwal from Kota South Assembly seat in 2003.
‘Baniya factor helped his case’
“Birla comes from the Marwari Baniya community that has been the BJP’s traditional support base and a major vote bank. His nomination along with making J.P. Nadda (a Brahmin leader) the working president is being viewed as the party’s forward caste push. It will send out that message to the community,” said a senior BJP leader.
With the issue of Good and Service Tax (GST) gaining currency and affecting the traders, this could be a way through which the BJP is trying to reach out to the community.
A BJP functionary said Birla is politically very sharp and works silently. “He cultivates relations and this seems to be paying off today. The Baniya factor would have also helped his case,” the functionary added.
There were a number of names doing the round for the Speaker’s post, including that of former union ministers Maneka Gandhi, Radha Mohan Singh, BJP leader Ramapati Ram Tripathi, former MP S.S. Ahluwalia and seven-time MP Virendra Kumar.
“His name was not even doing the rounds when the issue of Lok Sabha Speaker (post) was being discussed. This is the Modi-Shah way of functioning and it has their approval,” said a BJP leader.
“Birla has RSS roots and many in the party said his was essentially the RSS’ nomination,” said another BJP leader.
In 2018, Birla had played a crucial role in the organisational revamp of the Rajasthan BJP unit and many in the party know him for his booth-management skills.
“He was the parliamentary secretary in the Vasundhara Raje government from 2003 to 2008. They both come from the same Kota division and initially they shared good relations, but rivalry started soon though he never said anything publicly. He later established links with Delhi and maintained it,” said a BJP officer-bearer.
Apart from party posts, Birla has also been the vice-president of National Cooperative Consumer Association Ltd., New Delhi, and board member of Coal India Ltd.