Derek O'Brien (politician)

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Derek O'Brien
Derek 98744.png
O'Brien in 2019
Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha
Assumed office
19 August 2011 (2011-08-19)
Preceded byArjun Kumar Sengupta
ConstituencyWest Bengal
Leader of All India Trinamool Congress in Rajya Sabha
Assumed office
19 August 2011 (2011-08-19)
Preceded bypost created
Personal details
Born (1961-03-13) 13 March 1961 (age 60)
Calcutta, West Bengal, India
Political partyAll India Trinamool Congress
  • Rila Banerjee
    (m. 1991)
  • Dr. Tonuca Basu
    (m. 2006)
Alma materScottish Church College (BA)

Derek O’Brien (born 13 March 1961) is an Indian politician, television personality and quiz master.[2][3][4][5] He is a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha[6] (Upper House of India's Parliament) from West Bengal and member of the All India Trinamool Congress.[7][8] He is the chief national spokesperson as well as leader of the Trinamool Congress Parliamentary party in the Rajya Sabha.[9] Prior to his Parliamentary career, he became well known as the quizmaster for the Bournvita Quiz Contest and other shows.

Personal background[edit]

O’Brien comes from an Irish family and can trace his paternal origins to an Irish soldier who came to India in the early 1860s and whose descendants married into the Bengali community. O’Brien is based in Kolkata and speaks, reads and writes Bengali. O’Brien's grandfather, Amos O’Brien, was the first Christian to serve as head of the Department of English, Banaras Hindu University, and also taught at Ravenshaw College in Cuttack.[10]

O'Brien went to St. Xavier's Collegiate School in Kolkata and for a short period, St. Columba's School in Delhi, and then spent two years at Scottish Church College, Kolkata.[11] O’Brien is the oldest of three sons of Joyce and Neil O’Brien (1934–2016).[12] Neil O'Brien worked in publishing and retired as the chairman and managing director of Oxford University Press India as well as leading the Anglo-Indian community for two decades.[13]

He is married to Tonuca Basu, who is practising medicine in Brooklyn, New York. He was earlier married to Rila Banerjee [14] and the couple have a daughter Aanya.[15]

Professional and quizzing career[edit]

O’Brien's first job was as a journalist at Sportsworld magazine. After a short stint there, he joined the advertising agency Ogilvy in 1984 and became its Creative Head for Kolkata and Delhi. Simultaneously, he embarked on a career as a quizmaster and quiz show host, having been introduced to quizzing by his father, Neil O’Brien, who had conducted the first open quiz in India in 1967.[16][17][18] In 1988, O’Brien hosted his first all-India quizzes as a professional quizmaster: the Bata North Star Quiz and the Maggi Quiz for Schools. In 1990, he joined hands with Economic Times for the Brand Equity Quiz for business corporations. In 1991, he finally quit Ogilvy and set up his own knowledge, education and publishing company, Big Ideas – since renamed Derek O’Brien and Associates.[19][20][21][22][23][24]

Derek O’Brien has conducted quizzes in the UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the United States. In 2008, he travelled to Pakistan to host a television quiz for schools from Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi. For three years in a row (2003–05), O’Brien won the Indian Television Academy award for Best Host in a Television Gameshow.[25][26][27][28]

O’Brien has spoken at, among others, Harvard, Yale and Columbia Universities in the United States as well as several Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, Hindu College, and Shri Ram College of Commerce in Delhi, and Loreto College, Kolkata.[29][30][31][32][33][34][35]

He has served as president of the Dalhousie Institute Club.[36]

Political career[edit]

O’Brien joined the Trinamool Congress in 2004, when the party was still in opposition in West Bengal.[37] He later wrote that he was drawn to the charisma and personality of the Trinamool Congress leader (now chief minister of Bengal) Mamata Banerjee, and felt she was the only one who could defeat the then CPI(M)-led Communist government in the state.[38][39]

O’Brien soon became a spokesperson for the Trinamool Congress and was identified as the rare white-collar, English-speaking politician in the party.[40] He came to national media attention during Mamata Banerjee's protest against the CPI(M) government's land acquisition attempt in Singur (2006), and then in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, in which Trinamool Congress handed the CPI(M) its first defeat in West Bengal since 1977.[41][42] He pioneered his party's social media outreach.[43][44]

In 2011, following the Trinamool Congress victory in the West Bengal assembly election, O’Brien was sent to the Rajya Sabha.[45][46]

He was the Chairman of the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, from September 1, 2017 to September 12, 2019. Presently, he serves as a member on the following key parliamentary committees - General Purposes Committee, Business Advisory Committee, Ethics Committee, Transport, Tourism and Culture Committee, Human Resource Development Committee.[47][48] He served on the Railway Convention Committee [49][50] and has also been a member of parliamentary select (specific issue) committees [51] on the Goods and Services Tax Constitutional Amendment Bill,[52] the Insurance Bill,[53] the Land Acquisition Bill,[54] the Citizenship Act Amendment Bill.[55] He has spoken in Parliament on a range of issues, from demonetisation,[56] to net neutrality,[57][58] Jammu and Kashmir,[59] railways[60] and juvenile justice,[61] and participated in the discussion on the Motion of Thanks to the President of India's address to Parliament.[62]

In 2012, he addressed the United Nations General Assembly as a member of the Indian parliamentary delegation.[63] O’Brien is frequently seen on news television shows and is a regular commentator on political and policy issues.[64][65] He wrote a weekly column for NDTV[66] and his articles have appeared in Times of India,[67] Hindustan Times and Indian Express.

O’Brien is also a celebrated author. His books include the bestseller, Inside Parliament: Views for the Front Row, Derek Introduces the Constitution and Parliament of India, My Way, a motivational book, Speak Up Speak Out, a compilation of elocution pieces, and several reference, quiz and text books.[68][69][70][71]

He was sworn in as Member of Parliament on 19 August 2011 [72] and is one of 16 MPs elected to the Rajya Sabha from West Bengal.[73] In 2012, Trinamool Congress named him as its Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha.[74]

In 2012, O'Brien cast a vote in the presidential election to elect the 13th President of India. His vote is believed to be the first presidential vote cast by an elected member of the Anglo-Indian community—as members of the community have previously been nominated to the Lok Sabha and other assemblies and are not eligible to vote.[75]

His second term as an MP of the Rajya Sabha began on 19 August 2017[76] and is slated to end on 18 August 2023.[77]

He was suspended on 21 September 2020 from Rajya Sabha for the entire monsoon session along with 8 other members for unruly behavior.

Controversy & unruly behaviour[edit]

On 20 September 2020, when the Farm Reform Bill was placed in the Rajya Sabha for passage,[78] Derek O’Brien protested, tore and threw the Rule Book as he, along with other members, heckled the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh Narayan Singh. Apparently, in the ensuing melee with other members also protesting, and papers being flung in protest towards the Deputy Chairman, then the Rule Book in question was torn by Derek O’Brien. Media verifiable sources mention that the house was under complete chaos and unrest to protest the bill.[79] This chaos led to a 10-minute suspension of the house.[80][81] Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs sought his suspension, along with some other members, as a consequence for his actions under rule 256 of procedure and conduct of business. He along with eight other MPs were suspended for one week on account of his unruly and unparliamemtary behaviour.


  1. ^ "Dad's hobby is my profession: Derek O' Brien". The Times of India. 26 October 2002. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  2. ^ বসু, ঋজু. "বাংলাতেই ভরসা, জানাল বই-আড্ডা". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  3. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  4. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  5. ^ "Derek O Brien Biography - About family, political life, awards won, history". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  6. ^ "Members Page". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  7. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  8. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  9. ^ "Derek O'Brien appointed Trinamool Congress chief national spokesperson". The Economic Times. Retrieved 11 March 2017.
  10. ^ O'brien, Derek (15 August 2012). "Derek O'Brien: The O'Briens of India and Pakistan". Derek O'Brien. Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  11. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  12. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  13. ^ Agencies. "Neil O'Brien, India's first quizmaster, dies". The Hindu. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  14. ^ "Celebrating Women Power by Derek O'Brien". All India Trinamool Congress. 2 October 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Derek O'Brien - Penguin India". Penguin India. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  17. ^ Gupta, Gargi (9 August 2008). "Let's get quizzical". Business Standard India. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  18. ^ "Champion of class & decency". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  19. ^ "It's a quizzer's world". The Hindu. 4 August 2001. Archived from the original on 30 November 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  20. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Dad's hobby is my profession: Derek O' Brien - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  22. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  23. ^ "Forbes India Magazine - Print". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Man of questions to man of answers". The Telegraph. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  25. ^ blsmr. "The Hindu Business Line : What makes Bournvita quiz tick again?". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  26. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  27. ^ "Author Summary : Derek O' Brien - Pearson Education, India". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  28. ^ Derek O'Brien to quiz Pak children, retrieved 14 March 2017
  29. ^ "Harvard University keen on inviting Mamata Banerjee: Derek O' Brien | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  30. ^ বসু, ঋজু. "বাংলাতেই ভরসা, জানাল বই-আড্ডা". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  31. ^ "Day 3 of SRCC Business Conclave 2016 ends with Adi Godrej and Rajat Sharma". DU Beat. 6 February 2016. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  32. ^ "National Law School of India University, Bangalore". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  33. ^ "Making Knowledge Interesting to People – Derek O'Brien's Mission Statement |". 8 February 2014. Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  34. ^ "Harvard University keen on inviting Mamata: O Brien". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  35. ^ "Twitter". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  36. ^ "DI has a lady Prez". The Telegraph. Retrieved 3 April 2017.
  37. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  38. ^ "Opinion: Why I Cannot Discuss The CPI(M) Calmly". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  39. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  40. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Nation | Team Mamata". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  41. ^ "Opinion: Why I Cannot Discuss The CPI(M) Calmly". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  42. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  43. ^ "Maa Mati Manush :: M3 Leads - Election campaign on social media". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  44. ^ "Election #2014: As cyber war rooms get battle-ready, BJP and Congress are reaching out to a new constituency spread across social media 18022013". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  45. ^ "BRAND BENGAL". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  46. ^ "Elected Representatives : All India Trinamool Congress". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  47. ^ "Derek O Brien Biography - About family, political life, awards won, history". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  48. ^ "Rajya Sabha-Membership of Parliamentary Committees". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  49. ^ Rajya Sabha TV (9 August 2016), Sh. Derek O'Brien's comments on a resolution approving recommendations of Railway Convention Comm., retrieved 15 March 2017
  50. ^ "DEREK". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  51. ^ "Rajya Sabha-Membership of Parliamentary Committees". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  52. ^ Derek O'Brien (17 August 2016), Derek O'Brien makes a point of order in RS on GST Bill, retrieved 15 March 2017
  53. ^ "Insurance Bill" (PDF).
  54. ^ "Derek O'Brien speaks on Land Acquisition Bill, 2013 : All India Trinamool Congress". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  55. ^ "Citizenship Act Amendment Bill". The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
  56. ^ "Demonetisation: Derek O'Brien hits out at govt, says anybody who opposes the move not anti-national". The Financial Express. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  57. ^ "Derek O'Brien calls attention of the IT Minister at Rajya Sabha on Net Neutrality | Full Transcript : All India Trinamool Congress". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  58. ^ "Will Keep Fighting For Net Neutrality, Says Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  59. ^ "Comments on JK" (PDF).
  60. ^ "Derek O'Brien speaks on FDI in Railways and Defense | Transcript : All India Trinamool Congress". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  61. ^ "Justice bill" (PDF).
  62. ^ "Trinamool's Derek O'Brien speaks on the Motion of Thanks on the President's Address : All India Trinamool Congress". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  63. ^ "Derek O'Brien shares UN experience with students - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  64. ^ Derek O'Brien (18 December 2016), Derek O'Brien on The Big Fight | NDTV, retrieved 26 March 2017
  65. ^ Derek O'Brien (17 November 2016), Derek O'Brien speaks on the demonetisation issue on CNN News 18, retrieved 26 March 2017
  66. ^ "Derek O Brien – Author,". Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  67. ^ "Derek O'Brien Blog - Times of India Blog". Times of India Blog. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  68. ^ Gupta, Smita (13 January 2018). "Inside Parliament – Views from the Front Row review: Crossing the floor". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  69. ^ O'Brien, Derek (1 January 2013). Speak Up, Speak Out: My Favourite Elocution Pieces and How to Deliver Them. Place of publication not identified: Red Turtle. ISBN 9788129121158.
  70. ^ "No shortcuts". The Hindu. 28 February 2014. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  71. ^ O'Brien, Derek (3 May 2015). Derek Introduces the Constitution and Parliament of India (First ed.). New Delhi: Rupa Publications India. ISBN 9788129136558.
  72. ^ Yechury, Ahmed Patel take oath in Rajya Sabha
  73. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 August 2014. Retrieved 22 August 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  74. ^ "Derek O'Brien is TMC Chief Whip in Rajya Sabha". 3 August 2012.
  75. ^ President poll: Derek O' Brien first Anglo-Indian to vote, IBN Live, 19 July 2012.
  76. ^ "Derek O Brien". PRS. 25 October 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  77. ^ "Alphabetical List of Rajya Sabha Members". Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  78. ^ "Trinamool's Derek O'Brien Tries To Tear Rule Book During Farm Bill Debate". Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  79. ^ "Trinamool's Derek O'Brien Tries To Tear Rule Book During Farm Bill Debate". Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  80. ^ "Trinamool's Derek O'Brien Tries To Tear Rule Book During Farm Bill Debate". Retrieved 23 May 2021.
  81. ^ "If govt had the numbers, why didn't they allow the vote to happen: Derek". The Indian Express. 21 September 2020. Retrieved 23 May 2021.

External links[edit]