By naming Rajasthan MP Om Birla as the NDA nominee for the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have again given preference to competence over seniority.
Birla is a two-time Lok Sabha member from Kota in Rajasthan. His choice as the Speaker came as a surprise as the post is generally given to a leader who has substantial exposure of multiple terms in the lower house.
True to the Modi-Shah style, not many knew about their choice till the last moment.
But a number of factors went in his favour, said informed sources. He is close to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). His official residence in Delhi was often used for hosting RSS functions.
Birla is also close to Amit Shah as well as Prime Minister Modi from their early days.
The BJP President had launched the social media campaign for the Lok Sabha elections from Kota in 2018.
In terms of caste factor, Birla belongs to the Vaishya community, a section which has been a traditional BJP supporter but was antagonized because of the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Birla’s nomination as Speaker is the party’s attempt to reach out to the community.
Within Rajasthan’s politics, Birla, who has been a MLA thrice from Kota South, is considered to be in the anti-Vasundhara Raje camp. Another Rajasthan leader, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, also known to be anti-Vasundhara, is in the Modi cabinet.
The BJP leadership went by the principal of commitment to party, organizational capability and ability to handle tough situations in elevating Birla for the coveted post, forgoing the seniority matrix.Birla’s nomination for the Lok Sabha ticket from Kota, however, was strongly resisted by local BJP leaders after videos raising questions about his character went viral on social media though it did not affect his election prospects.
Modi and Shah are known for springing surprise decisions — be it in the appointment of non-Jat Manohar Lal Khattar as the Haryana Chief Minister or Devendra Fadnavis, a Brahmin, as Chief Minister of Maharashtra and Yogi Adityanath, head priest of the Gorakhnath sect, as the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister.