'Confident you will allow us to represent voice of India': Rahul Gandhi to Om Birla

Recently designated Leader of the Opposition, Gandhi now holds his first constitutional post since his entry into politics in 2004

The gauntlet: Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi shakes hands with PM Narendra Modi (Sansad TV screengrab)
The gauntlet: Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi shakes hands with PM Narendra Modi (Sansad TV screengrab)

NH Political Bureau

Newly elected Leader of the Opposition Rahul Gandhi congratulated Om Birla on his re-election as Speaker of the Lok Sabha for a second consecutive term.

Gandhi assured the Lower House that the Opposition would cooperate in running it efficiently, emphasising that this cooperation must be built on a foundation of trust.

He underscored that the Speaker's responsibilities extend beyond managing the House proceedings — to safeguarding the Constitution of India.

Speaking in Parliament, Rahul Gandhi stated, "I would like to congratulate you on your successful re-election. On behalf of the entire Opposition and the INDIA alliance, I extend my congratulations. This house represents the voice of India’s people and you are the final arbitrator of the voice.

Of course, the government has political power. But the Opposition also represents the voice of India’s youth. And this time, the Opposition represents significantly more (of) the voice of the Indian people than it did the last time.
The Opposition would like to assist you in doing your work. We would like the House to function often and well.
It is very important that cooperation happens on the basis of trust. It is very important that the voice of the Opposition is allowed to be represented in this House.
I am confident that you will allow us to represent our voice, allow us to speak, allow us to represent the voice of the people of India.

"The question is not how efficiently the House is running. The question is, how much of India’s voice is being allowed to be heard in this House," Gandhi said, while Birla was seen smiling in his chair.

So the idea, that you can run the House efficiently by silencing the voice of the Opposition is a non-democratic idea.
And this election has shown that the people of India expect the Opposition to defend the Constituion, the Samvidhan, of this country.
And we are confident that by allowing the Opposition to speak, by allowing us to represent the people of India, you will do your duty of defending the Constitution of India.

Gandhi ended his speech as Leader of the Opposition with once more congratulating Birla — as well as all the newly elected members of Parliament present.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Gandhi's ally in the INDIA bloc, also congratulated Om Birla, emphasising the need for impartiality and the importance of not silencing the Opposition. 

Om Birla, the NDA nominee, was elected as the Lok Sabha Speaker on Wednesday, 26 June, following a motion proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and approved by voice vote.

Following the announcement, Prime Minister Modi and minister of parliamentary affairs Kiren Rijiju escorted Birla to the Speaker's chair. Rahul Gandhi joined them, greeting Birla and shaking hands with Prime Minister Modi.

Pro-tem Speaker B. Mahtab announced Birla's election after the Opposition, which had put forward Congress MP Kodikunnil Suresh as a candidate, chose not to demand a vote by ballot.  

Upon taking his seat, Birla was welcomed by Mahtab, who remarked, "It is your chair — please occupy it." Prime Minister Modi highlighted the significance of Birla's re-election, stating, "It is an honour to have you re-elected to this chair for a second term."

Modi congratulated Birla on behalf of the entire House, expressing eagerness for his leadership over the next five years. "I congratulate you on behalf of the entire House and look forward to your guidance for the next five years," he said.

In his address, Prime Minister Modi lauded Birla's exemplary work as a parliamentarian, suggesting it should serve as inspiration for new Lok Sabha members. "Your pleasant demeanour keeps the entire House in good spirits," the Prime Minister said.

Of course, Speaker Om Birla's last term presiding over the action in the Lok Sabha has been interesting, to say the least. It saw him suspend a 100-odd MPs — of whom only three remain in the NDA government side, on the BJP's treasury benches.

Yes, the Opposition had had some 'interesting times' with Birla, for sure. Will he in turn have some 'interesting times' now that the Opposition is larger, more united and likely to speak louder?

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