Image Source : PTI Om Birla (L), K Suresh (R)

New Delhi: Om Birla, the former Lok Sabha speaker, was again picked by the ruling BJP-led NDA on Tuesday– thus maintaining its streak of continuity in its third term by fielding him for the crucial parliamentary position again. However, this time, its bid for a consensus was thwarted by the opposition which forced an election by nominating Kodikunnil Suresh as its candidate. The election which has been dubbed as “historic” is scheduled to take place today. 

The opposition’s last-minute decision to go for a rare contest came after senior BJP leaders did not agree to its precondition that the INDIA bloc must be offered the post of Deputy Speaker in lieu of supporting Birla, who is the clear favourite in case of an election. The scheduled day for picking the Speaker is today. It will be only the third time in Lok Sabha’s history. With the NDA having 293 MPs in its kitty and the INDIA bloc 233, numbers clearly favour Birla in Lok Sabha, which currently has 542 members after Rahul Gandhi resigned from one of the two seats he was elected from. At least three independent members also support the opposition.

NDA seeks votes from unaligned parties 

The NDA is hopeful that some unaligned parties, including the YSR Congress having four MPs, will also back Birla. BJP sources claimed that the Congress has been the main aggressor on the issue and some other INDIA bloc members are not very keen on a contest. If Birla, the BJP MP from Kota, is elected, it will be the fifth time that a Speaker will serve beyond the tenure of one Lok Sabha. Though Congress leader Balram Jakhar is the only presiding officer to have served two complete terms extending the seventh and eighth Lok Sabha.

A third-term MP, Birla is also a three-term former Rajasthan MLA and has risen through the ranks in the BJP. Suresh, his rival for the Speaker’s post, is an eighth-term MP from Kerala and hails from a Dalit community. If a division of votes takes place in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, then paper slips will be used as the electronic system is not operational yet in the new Lok Sabha where members are still in the process of being allocated their seats.

Seasoned BJP leader Rajnath Singh had taken the lead in reaching out to opposition parties over the issue as Birla emerged as the NDA’s consensus choice and met its senior leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Suresh says poll is not about winning and losing…

Suresh, originally from Kodikunnil in Thiruvananthapuram district, Kerala, completed his pre-degree at Mar Ivanios College in the city. He went on to graduate from Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram, earning an LL.B. degree.

Suresh said it is not about winning or losing, but about a convention, the Speaker will be of the ruling party and the deputy speaker from the opposition. “Last two Lok Sabhas, they denied us deputy speaker’s post because they said you are not recognised as the opposition. Now we are recognised as the opposition, (and) deputy speaker post is our right. But they are not ready to give us. Till 11.50, we were waiting for reply from government’s side but they did not give any reply,” he told reporters.

(With inputs from agency)