National Democratic Alliance nominee Om Birla was on Wednesday unanimously elected speaker of the Lok Sabha with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the opposition assuring him of their wholehearted support in the smooth conduct of proceedings in the House.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's T R Baalu and Trinamool Congress's Sudip Bandyopadhyay were among those who backed Birla and urged him to be impartial as presiding officer of the lower house.
"I on behalf of the government and the treasury benches assure you full support in conducting the House. I also assure you that your order will prevail and you must be tough even if anyone from our side (treasury benches) crosses the limit," Modi said, congratulating Birla.
The prime minister heaped praise on the two-time Bharatiya Janata Party MP for his long public life, going back to his student days, and recalled his social work in Kota, Rajasthan, and in other parts of the country, including during the 2011 earthquake in Gujarat and the 2013 floods in Uttarakhand.
Birla assured the members that he will run the House in an impartial manner and everyone will be heard.
"I have been a member like you from 2014 to 2019. And here we should raise issues which matter to the last person standing in the row," he said.
The 56-year-old, considered to be close to both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, succeeds eight-term MP Sumitra Mahajan as the speaker, a post traditionally held by senior MPs.
Extending his whole-hearted support to Birla, Chaudhary urged him to be impartial and give the opposition enough time to raise issues of public interest.
He said the presiding officer is the custodian of the House, which according to Jawaharlal Nehru, represents the nation and freedom of the country.
Chaudhary also expressed concern over very few bills being referred to standing committees by the Lok Sabha and hoped for a reversal of the trend.
Pinaki Mishra of the Biju Janata Dal expressed similar concerns and said Birla's unopposed election shows his acceptability.
There was no candidate in the fray other than Birla and the motion moved by the prime minister to choose the Kota-Bundi MP as the speaker was adopted by a voice vote.
A total of 13 motions were moved in support of Birla.
Since the motion moved by Modi, also the Leader of the House, was adopted, the other motions became infructuous.
Birla was declared elected by pro tem Speaker Virendra Kumar.
Modi led the new speaker to the presiding officer's chair. Several leaders from BJP, Congress, DMK, TMC went up the podium to greet the new speaker.
Birla, a surprise pick for the post, won his first Lok Sabha election in 2014 and was again elected this year from Rajasthan's Kota-Bundi seat.
The prime minister said Kota has become 'Kashi (hub) of education'.
"Kota has become kind of a small country and the transformation of Kota has taken place under your leadership," he said.
There is a perception that people in political life only abuse each other but the reality of their social service never comes to light, Modi said.
"The days of hard core politics are gradually passing out," he said.
Referring to slogan shouting in the house during the oath taking of MPs, Chaudhary said that the house has witnessed in the last two days various religious slogans like 'Jai Shri Ram' and 'Allahu Akbar'.
He said the social fabric of the country will be strengthened only when people respect all religious faiths.
N K Premchandran of the RSP urged the speaker to protect the democratic rights of members asserting that active opposition is good for healthy democracy.
He said he raised 500 amendments to different bills during the 16th Lok Sabha but none of them were accepted by the government.
Shiromani Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal and Apna Dal's leader Anupriya Patel suggested that the regional and smaller parties should be given adequate time during discussions.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Lok Janshakti Party's Chirag Paswan, Telangana Rashtra Samiti's N Nageshwar Rao while Bahujan Samaj Party's Shyam Singh Yadav said first-time MPs should also get sufficient time in discussions.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader Asaduddin Owaisi said the speaker should ensure protection of separation of powers and the elected government should not become a monarch.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress cautioned Birla that 'brute majoritarianism' sometimes affects the functioning of the House.
"Many times the Central government acts as if can govern the whole country," Bandyopadhyay said.
He was, however, interrupted by Birla who said this was not the occasion to speak on the matter.
Union Minister Ramdas Athawale (RPI-A) evoked laughter when he recited a poem and promised to make Birla laugh.
Referring to the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, he said when the Congress was in power he was with them and then he shifted to NDA.
"You (Birla) do not laugh, but I will make you laugh," he said.
Though the Congress and the DMK had moved notices for supporting Birla as the speaker well past the 12 noon Tuesday deadline, the pro tem speaker allowed it to be included as a 'special case'.
'Will run House impartially, safeguard interests of all members'
Birla said he will run the House in an impartial manner, while asserting that the chair should not be biased.
Addressing the House after being unanimously elected as the Speaker, Birla assured the members that he will preside over the proceedings in accordance with rules and regulations and 'safeguard the interests of the members irrespective of the strength of their parties in the House'.
Praising Prime Minister Modi for running a transparent government, the speaker said he expects the 'government to be more responsible and answerable in the House'.
Everyone should be heard and the government should respond to them, he added.
Seeking cooperation from all the members for a smooth functioning of the House, Birla said they should raise the questions and issues that come under the ambit of the central government.
"I have been a member like you from 2014 to 2019. And here, we should raise the issues which matter to the last person standing in the row," he said.