History in the making as parliament’s special session convenes (From the Corridors of Power)July 21st, 2008 - 3:55 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, July 21 (IANS) History was definitely in the making as parliament convened Monday for a special two-day session to decide the fate of the 50-month-old government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The excitement was palpable as Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee called the house to order on the dot of 11.
“I’m happy to see a full house,” Chaterjee remarked, pointing to the almost cent-percent attendance, welcoming new members and mourning the demise of five sitting or retired MPs.
Within the house, it was not only the main chamber that was packed, but also the public galleries, while in sharp contrast, the diplomat’s gallery had just two individuals seated there. The gallery for the Rajya Sabha was about 85 percent full.
The significance of the session, it would seem, was not lost even on the staff of the Parliament House complex, what with the corridors almost totally deserted. All those not lucky enough to gain entry to the house crowded the many rooms with TV sets to watch the proceedings being telecast live.
It was a rather subdued, but nonetheless firm, Chatterjee who was on view Monday. Gone were his schoolmaster manners and the frustration he usually makes evident as he made an earnest attempt to reach out to members in an attempt to maintain calm, even when they raised a hue and cry every now and then.
“Please let us have this discussion in a manner that upholds the dignity of the house. The whole nation is looking to us,” he said as the session began.
“The leader of opposition is speaking. Please show courtesy. If you don’t develop the art of listening, how can you reply?” he remarked at one stage when Congress members interrupted the Bharatiya Janata Party’s L.K. Advani as he replied to the confidence motion moved by the prime minister.
White was the colour of choice of the male MPs with the women members providing the colour.
Maneka Gandhi and Jayaprada both wore green, the former a salwar kameez and the latter a sari. Ambika Soni was in a pink salwar kameez, Priya Dutt in a ditto outfit in orange, while Meira Kumar sported a beige silk sari.
Interestingly, the numbers were evenly matched between the saris and salwar kameezes.
But some male MPs did wear wore colours other than white. Leading this brigade was External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in a bright yellow kurta.
A variety of headgears was also on view. While the BJP’s Navjot Singh Sidhu and the Akali Dal’s Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa sported saffron turbans, two other members of the Akali Dal sported their trademark dark blue turbans, and the BJP’s Manvendra Singh stood out in a pink and silver Rajasthani turban.
There was mirth and sarcasm in equal measure as the house met.
Chatterjee elicited many a chuckle as he inadvertently called on the leader of the opposition rather than the prime minister to move the confidence motion.
“I’m so sorry,” he quickly said.
The sarcasm came in dollops from Advani.
“This government is like a patient in the ICU,” he said at one stage, leading to cries of “not at all” from the Congress benches.
“I have seen every Indian prime minister, first as a journalist from the press gallery and then in my almost 40 years in parliament. Never have I seen such a paralysed government,” Advani said at another stage of his almost hour-long speech.
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