The speaker had to be elected through a rare voice vote due to a lack of consensus amid opposition gains.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has secured the position of speaker of the lower house of India’s parliament.

Om Birla, from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP, was re-elected as Lok Sabha speaker in a voice vote. His defeat of Kodikunnil Suresh from the opposition Congress party marked a notable success for Modi in the first big test of his third term after contentious elections severely dented his political power.

“I congratulate you on behalf of the entire House and look forward to your guidance for the next five years. Your sweet smile keeps the entire House happy,” Modi told Birla.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, a scion of ruling families in India who on Tuesday was confirmed as leader of the opposition, exhibited a rare display of harmony with Modi as he joined him in congratulating the newly elected speaker.

“It is very important that the voice of the opposition is allowed to be represented in this house,” Gandhi said in his speech, and promised that the opposition wishes to assist him in his work.

Strengthened

The speaker of the lower house is usually a politician from the biggest party and elected through consensus between parties. However, the political bitter political divide in the aftermath of the elections meant a rare vote was necessary this time.

After securing two five-year terms with strong majorities, Modi’s Hindu-nationalist BJP secured just 240 of the 543 seats in the lower house, well short of a majority.

That forced Modi into tough negotiations with several smaller parties in order to form a government under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) banner.

Modi was sworn in for a rare third term on June 9, and winning the battle for speaker strengthens his position. Birla will preside over an entity that is critical to passing laws.

The opposition reportedly tried to secure the position of deputy speaker in return for supporting Birla, but the BJP refused to budge.

The deputy speaker’s post, traditionally given to an opposition politician, was vacant in the previous Lok Sabha due to the strong majority governed by Modi’s party. In the prime minister’s first five-year term, a BJP candidate was named for the position.

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