“Lawmakers’ duty to enhance people’s faith in Parliament,” says Speaker Om Birla

Kota : Shri Om Birla was reelected as the Lok Sabha Speaker last month after the first election for the position since 1976 was held following a breakdown of talks between the government and the Opposition over the deputy presiding officer post of Parliament’s lower House. He also became the first Speaker to retain the post in four decades. Days after presiding over the first session of the 18th Lok Sabha, Birla spoke to HT in Bundi in his Lok Sabha constituency of Kota (Rajasthan) about his priorities, expectations, quality of debates, challenges, etc. Edited excerpts:
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla. (ANI)

HT : You are the first Speaker since the 1980s to get a second term after serving for five years. What are your priorities?

Om Birla : The last Speaker who got two terms [Balram Jakhar] won from Punjab and Rajasthan [Sikar]. I won [Kota Lok Sabha seat] in the same state [Rajasthan]. People have blessed me. Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] has expressed his confidence in me. As a Speaker, I want to use my experience to establish new milestones based on the rules and precedents.
We are the world’s biggest democracy. We have the best Constitution. I want to see people’s confidence grow in Parliament in the next five years.
Our parliament should send a message to the world on the power of parliamentary democracy. Agreements, disagreements, and differences of views are part of the democratic process.
When different points of view come up during debates, it also helps the government shape its policies and laws…a positive atmosphere is created in the country. More discussions will also lead to better results.
HT :The next Parliament session is starting in 15 days. After the tumultuous first session, what is your message to the Opposition?
OB : I do not see any lawmaker as an Opposition or a ruling side MP [member of Parliament]. All MPs are elected by the people of this country. They get tens of thousands of votes to come to the Lok Sabha. They get elected based on their party’s ideologies. This is the beauty of our democracy. Naturally, the members have their party agendas and articulate the same in Parliament.
But what I expect is there should be very high-quality debates in Parliament. Agreements and disagreements are also welcome. But constructive and positive debates will be good for the nation.
It is our duty as lawmakers to enhance the faith of the people in Parliament. Agreements and disagreements should happen as it shows the strength of our democracy. The diverse views also help the government, and it is beneficial for [the goal of] Viksit Bharat [developed India].
HT : Given the Opposition’s increased strength and the way Leader of Opposition Rahul Gandhi led it in the first session, do you foresee a challenge to running the House the way you want to do it?
OB : Every challenge offers a new opportunity. A strong Opposition that wants to put forward its arguments is important in a democracy. But we should all stand together on issues of national importance.
HT : Unsubstantiated allegations marred the first session of the 18th Lok Sabha. How do you plan to curb this?
OB : The rules for Parliament [proceedings] have been made as per the Constitution. Every party must follow the rules and traditions of Parliament.
HT : You announced a panel will come up with suggestions to maintain the sanctity of the oath-taking ceremony. Why was it necessary?
OB : We must abide by the format envisaged in the Constitution while taking oath. The panel will talk to all parties and come up with suggestions.
HT : You won the Kota Lok Sabha seat for the third time. You are also the Speaker. What are your plans for your constituency?
OB : Kota-Bundi is family to me. I was born here, grew up, and joined public life, and have been fighting elections since 2003 from this place. People love me and have repeatedly given me their blessings. This place has tremendous possibilities for agriculture-based industries. After the Delhi-Mumbai expressway is completed, it will boost the agriculture sector. We also have the Chambal River…we do not face any water shortage. We also have two national parks. We will try to develop Kota-Bundi as a tourism hub.
Also, tens of thousands of students come to Kota to prepare for competitive exams. We are making plans to ensure that they get jobs here.
(Courtesy : Hindustan Times)