It was Rahul Gandhi all the way in the Lok Sabha (Parliament Sidelights)June 1st, 2009 - 7:55 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, June 1 (IANS) Typical of his self-effacing temperament, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, the man who could be sitting in the front row of treasury benches one day, chose to be a backbencher as the first session of the newly-elected 15th Lok Sabha commenced Monday.
But though as he tried to avoid the spotlight, the 38-year-old Gandhi-Nehru scion, dressed in a starched white kurta pyjama, could not succeed in fobbing off fawning party leaders and an intrusive media. Almost every Congress MP made it a point to genuflect before the man who could be king tomorrow and chat up with him.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, the 77-year-old Congress politician from Karnataka, had a lot to be thankful to the Gandhi family. He was seen engaged in deep conversation with Rahul Gandhi. Anand Sharma also appeared upbeat after his promotion as commerce and industry minister and dropped in for a chat with Gandhi before he left after taking oath.
Rahul, the emerging youth icon, however, chose to give all his attention to buddies Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasad and Arun Yadav, who were sitting next to him for at least a couple of hours.
Youth is king!
In a sign of things to come, young MPs got a lot of appreciative thumping from both treasury and opposition benches as they took oath.
The 28-year-old Agatha Sangma, the youngest minister in the Manmohan Singh government, was greeted with loud applause as she walked from her seat to take the oath. Congress president Sonia Gandhi smiled. So did Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj. The 32-year-old Sachin Pilot also got also approving nods when he came to take the oath.
Shashi Tharoor’s impeccable public school English accent stood out amid a babel of tongues in which MPS took oath. The Congress MP from Thiruvanathapuram and now minister of state for external affairs, Tharoor was sporting a tricolour angavastaram and a “veshti”, the traditional Kerala attire, but his accent reminded many of the jet-setting international diplomat he was before taking the plunge into domestic politics.
Tharoor’s youthful appeal also cut across party lines. Not just Sonia Gandhi and her colleagues, but BJP leader L.K. Advani, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav and former railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav too stood up to shake hands with him.
L.K. Advani’s image as a polarising politician has stuck. Despite his strenuous attempt to recast himself as a moderate, he continues to provoke strong feelings among Muslims. He got a taste of this when Asaduddin Owaisi, the MP from Hyderabad and leader of the All India Majlis-e Ittihad al-Muslimin (MIM), just walked past the opposition benches after taking oath.
Advani tried to catch Owaisi’s eye, who just looked away.
Former law minister Hans Raj Bhardwaj, who was dropped from the council of ministers, tried to put up a brave face when he arrived in parliament, spending an inordinately long time with reporters milling at the foyer. In fact, he was more than happy to pose as shutterbugs rapidly clicked away.
As Bhardwaj ambled in gingerly in his starched kurta and dhoti, he refused to give away anything of what his future plans would be. “All is well. I am enjoying myself,” was his only comment.
DMK ministers bask in glory
The eight DMK ministers sitting together in the treasury benches seemed to bask in the glory of having made it in the council of ministers while an unusually sober T.R. Baalu, who was left out of the cabinet, sat some distance away. While they took oath in Tamil, he did not thump the desk, as many others were doing. In fact, there was hardly any eye contact with Baalu as the DMK MPs returned to their seats after the customary swearing in.
Hamdulla Sayeed enquires about protocol
The late P.M. Sayeed’s 26-year-old son, the youngest MP in the current Lok Sabha and who won from the country’s smallest constituency of Lakshadweep, was seen making enquiries amongst the parliament staff on the protocol for the swearing in.
Arriving well before the proceedings got underway, he was told by the parliament staff what the drill would entail. He was also told that he would need to await his turn as MPs were taking oath in alphabetical order of the states they represented.
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