The aggressive, acrimonious rhetoric that had taken over the political atmosphere since the Gujarat elections, and which was reflected for most part of the Winter Session of Parliament, made way for some soft, even friendly, warmth as Rajya Sabha members on Friday bid farewell to three MPs. The tenures of Karan Singh, Janardan Dwivedi and Parvez Hashmi, all Congressmen who represented Delhi in the Upper House, comes to an end at the end of the month.
They were feted by colleagues in the Upper House on the last day of the session. Singh, who sat next to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the front row, has been a politician since 1952. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, told the House that when Singh started his political career in Jammu and Kashmir, he was just 18. He spent the next 18 years in the state before he was inducted into Indira Gandhi’s cabinet. He was 36.
Now 86, Singh has spent 40 of the last 50 years as a Parliamentarian, observing, and interacting with, every Indian Prime Minister — from Jawaharlal Nehu to Narendra Modi.
Singh said although each one of them had differences in opinion and ideology, each served the goal that Nehru had called “the exciting adventure of building a new India”. Singh said that “not all changes” he has seen, as Indian democracy and Parliament evolved, “have been positive”. He mentioned the likes of Hiren Mukherjee, Madhu Limaye, Nath Pai, Bhupesh Gupta and Atal Bihari Vajpayee among MPs whose debating skill was “brilliant”. There are more disruptions than debates now, he lamented, adding that the people’s representatives sitting around him should introspect in this regard.
“Our heritage teaches us all the ideas that form the basis of our Constitution,” Singh said. He elaborated on the ideas of secularism, socialism and freedom using poems, shlokas and dohas in Urdu, Sanskrit and Hindi. “We are not a closed society,” he said. “I came as an idealistic young man. I bid farewell as an idealistic old man.”
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called Singh a “philosopher king” that Aristotle had spoken of. Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said Singh is unique in the sense that he has been both — a raja and a mantri.
About Janardan Dwivedi, Naidu said he had been a leader and a reader, indicating Dwivedi’s career in academia with the Delhi University. Dwivedi thanked Naidu for his lighter interjections, as otherwise these farewells are “like an obituary reference”. Recounting his 57-year journey in politics, Dwivedi said he never “compromised on ideas”, although he said, “jab aap sangathan mein hote hain, sangathan ki maryada ka paalan karna hota hai.” (When you are part of a team, you have to agree to its limits.)