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PM hopes for a ‘new beginning’
15th LS gets going, 275 MPs take oath
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 1
The first session of the 15th Lok Sabha began on Monday with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoping it will herald a “new beginning” as around 275 newly elected MPs took the oath in different languages reflecting the linguistic diversity of India.

The oath taking ceremony of 543 MPs will continue for two days before the new speaker is elected on Wednesday. President Pratibha Patil will address parliament on Thursday.

“I hope we will make a new beginning — that the Parliament will be allowed to run smoothly, that dialogue, discussion and reason will prevail in our proceedings. And we will give all due respect to the Opposition in serving with responsibility,” Manmohan Singh told reporters outside Parliament as he walked in.

Rare warmth filled the portals of Parliament, as the newly elected Lok Sabha members took cues from their party leaders to put persons before politics, for once.

As the vibrancy and diversity of India shone through the House of People where MPs were administered oath of affirmation by Pro tem Speaker Manikrao Gavit, stalwarts ensured the oft-made promise of unity went right across, at least for the while.

The tone was set by leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee, the first member to take oath today; he walked across the well to welcome BJP’s top leadership featuring Leader of the Opposition LK Advani, and his team of veterans like Sushma Swaraj, Jaswant Singh, Rajnath Singh and Murli Manohar Joshi.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was seen gesturing respectfully to bete noires like Advani, even Sushma Swaraj. Further down, she greeted past allies, CPM’s Basudeb Acharia; Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and RLD head Lalu Yadav. It was Lalu, however, who attracted the heaviest applause from Sonia when he took his oath in Hindi.

The UPA chief also pledged in Hindi, inviting hushed comments, mainly from BJP’s to-be-deputy leader Sushma, whose hate for Sonia’s foreign origin is well known. Today, however, Sushma was restrained, with the Congress chief making a near-perfect delivery.

Her senior colleague Pranab however took his oath in English, though most ministers like Kapil Sibal, Sharad Pawar, CP Joshi, Speaker-elect Meira Kumar, Salman Khursheed chose as did Congress’ young MPs Jitin Prasad, Arun Yadav, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Deepender Hooda and Ashok Tanwar. Punjab MPs — including Sukhbir Badal’s wife Harsimrat Badal and former CM’s wife Preneet Kaur — were exceptions; they spoke in Punjabi.

There were others like P Chidambaram and Pawan Bansal who chose regional languages to play to the gallery — Tamil and Punjabi, respectively, the latter even invited a remark from old friend Sushma, who said: “To phir apne Chandigarh Punjab ko de diya (So you have given Chandigarh to Punjab).”

The most enterprising lot was led by BJP’s probable for Deputy Speaker’s post Sumitra Mahajan who took her oath in Sanskrit. Party MP from Gujarat Harin Pathak gave her company. The head turner in this category, however, was Inder Singh Namdhari, a Sikh MP from Jharkhand and a former assembly speaker, who surprised all with his oath in Sanskrit. He seemed to have impressed Laughter Challenge judge and BJP’s Amritsar MP Navjot Sidhu, particularly. Another striking point in today’s ceremony was the choice of words by some leaders like NC’s Farooq Abdullah, who swore “in the name of Allah”; BJP’s Shahnawaz Hussain and MIM’s Asadudin Owaisi who pledged to “Khuda”; Congress’ Salman Khursheed, however, stuck to “ishwar”.

Not that the House was warmed up all day; there were quite a few aberrations to the general spirit of bonhomie, like when Owaisi zoomed past BJP benches, ignoring even Advani’s greetings. Some members were waiting for Varun Gandhi’s turn, as if they had plans for him. But the Pilibhit MP didn’t arrive; he perhaps knew that Uttar Pradesh members’ turn would not comer until tomorrow.

His mother Maneka was present so was Rahul Gandhi. Rahul was seen having long conversations first with foreign minister SM Krishna and then his young colleagues desperate for his attention. In the Speaker’s gallery sat Priyanka, watching over her mother Sonia as she took oath. The gallery looked glamourous with Sangeeta Bijlani, here to see husband Azharuddin take oath. His turn didn’t come today.

Quite a few star MPs like Jaya Prada, Shatrughan Sinha, Bengali actors Shatabdi Roy and Tapas Palu of TMC and former cricketers Kirti Azad and Azharuddin were also present.

That apart, the House looked colourful with MPs from Andhra Pradesh and Arunachal wearing traditional attire. The cameras went crazy for Arunachal’s Ninong Ering, who wore a “Podum”, an imitated hornbill hood headgear, to send a message of conservation.

Another eye-catcher was Shashi Thoroor, the flamboyant Kerala MP, who wore a dhoti but swore in English, the American accent intact.

Budget
Govt to bypass house panel

New Delhi: With little time left to pass the general budget (vote on account ends on July 31), the government is approaching the opposition for consensus on sparing the referral of budgetary allocations to the Parliamentary Committee, a general norm.

Earlier, leader of the House in Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee indicated he was working along these lines. Committee formation is time consuming — some 24 committees have to be constituted and proceedings cannot begin until June 9, when the session ends. On top of that, appointment of the committee chairmen and members takes a lot of time, as all parties like to push their people. With so many hassles at hand and little time, the UPA is eager to bypass the committee and get the finance bill passed by July 31. — TNS

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