14th Lok Sabha is history

On the last day of the 14th Lok Sabha,there were no signs of overt nostalgia,save one,a very visible one. Of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who kept his composure even while conceding he was being very....

Seema Chishti & Pradeep Kaushalnew Delhi | Published: February 27, 2009 2:20 am

On the last day of the 14th Lok Sabha,there were no signs of overt nostalgia,save one,a very visible one. Of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee who kept his composure even while conceding he was being very “emotional” about leaving the chamber “for the last time”.

Today,as always,India’s splendid diversity was on display,full volume — from the colours of kurtas and stoles to questions,concerns,issues raised. Question Hour was eclectic as ever,providing members the opportunity to quiz ministers about “the number of public libraries run by the government across India,” details of “schemes in operation for storage and processing of fruits and vegetables,” and “whether the government has taken any final decision for providing a revival package for Instrumentation Ltd,Kota”.

Ministers present answered in as much detail as they could,only to melt away during the session on ‘Matters of Urgent Public Importance’. Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay,alone on the Treasury benches at one point of time,even got up to “reassure” the CPM’s Basudeb Acharya on behalf of the government that the welfare of the Gram Dak Sevak would be kept in mind.

While the Treasury benches were not exactly brimming,several other prominent faces were missing. While the PM’s health kept him away and Atal Behari Vajpayee and Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi were also absent for the same reason,most filmstar MPs and stalwarts like Sharad Pawar too were not present. Nor were prominent DMK and Andhra MPs,most already in campaign mode.

At one point after 12.30 pm,there were just 38 MPs in the House,listening to grievances from India’s remotest corners — the Chamrajnagar MP of the JD(S) asking for rural electrification in pure Kannada,N N Krishnadas (CPM) demanding higher procurement prices for paddy,and a Congress MP from Assam insisting that the Agartala-Silchar Express be renamed the Bhaasha-Shaheed Express.

For all the tumult this Lok Sabha witnessed,it was an uncharacteristically smooth day. While there were no bills to bicker about ,there were several huddles across parties,about matters important and not-so-important. Gurudas Dasgupta settled on the third row of the Treasury benches to chat with Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes. SP’s Rampur MP Jaya Prada whizzed in briefly and congratulated her JD(S) colleague for raising concerns about electrification in his village.

And before it was time for the closing speeches,Leader of Opposition L K Advani went across to each person in the first row and shook hands — Lalu Prasad stood up to reciprocate. The PM’s speech,read out by Pranab Mukherjee,thanked the Leader of Opposition for being “constructive”,even before he thanked the UPA chairperson for being the “inspiration behind progressive legislation”. And Advani,who had repeatedly taunted Manmohan Singh as the “weakest Prime Minister”,did not fail to mention “I would have been very happy if the Prime Minister had come” — warm words that had members across parties thumping their desks in appreciation.

Throughout Somnath Chatterjee’s nearly thirty-minute speech,UPA members expectedly cheered him along,but the spirit of the day,of relaxed camaraderie,came to the fore when Dada found himself being mildly cheered by even his ex-colleagues — that was when he referred to his first seat in the House (“number 512,near the pillar”) and his past years serving as a CPM member and leader in the House.

“I thank you all for tolerating me so long,” Chatterjee remarked at the very outset. “I hope you will keep retired politicians in mind.”

Permitting Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel to speak about his ministry’s initiatives after Question Hour,he expressed hope that Patel would take note if he wrote to him about matters concerning West Bengal.

Allowing CPM member C S Sujatha to speak,he said: “I could not get the Women’s Reservations Bill passed,so I will give women more opportunity to speak today.”

For once,there was no bitterness — hurt egos,verbal clashes,one-upmanship had all been put behind. What seemed to weigh on every mind was the challenge to return to the House.

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