New Delhi: The budget session of parliament began today with some new members, who are expected to shake things up a bit in the Rajya Sabha. The House of Elders welcomed the first lot of Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers -- activist and vocal government critic Sanjay Singh, ND Gupta and Sushil Gupta -- on the 12-day first leg of the session, during which the Union budget will be presented.
Day 1 started with a protest and boycott of the speech of President Ram Nath Kovind to the joint sitting of the two houses. Arriving at the Parliament House before it starts at 11, Sanjay Singh and company headed straight for the protest corner -- the Gandhi statue, which stands outside the main entrance to parliament.
Their protests against the sealing drive in Delhi and the disqualification of 20 AAP legislators in Delhi set the tone for what could be expected of the party during the packed session, during which the government is hoping to push through two key bills. One of the bills ban instant triple talaq and another will give constitutional status to the Commission on Other Backward Castes.
"The manner in which they have taken action against the MLAs, we will surely raise it in the house too," said Mr Singh, the 45-year-old senior leader and spokesperson of AAP.
Before this, AAP member Bhagwant Mann stirred things up in Lok Sabha with his unconventional ways. He landed in a controversy after recording a video about entering Parliament on social media and was held guilty by a panel.
The nomination of the three AAP members had brought out the latent rift between founder member Kumar Vishwas and party chief Arvinf Kejriwal. Kumar Vishwas had hoped the party would send him to Parliament. But Mr Kejriwal refused to consider his candidacy and accused him of attempting a coup to overthrow him as AAP boss. The nominations of Sushil Gupta, a former Congressman and a wealthy businessman, and chartered accountant ND Gupta had drawn barbs from the BJP and the Congress alike.
Today, the new members were given a tour of the Parliament House by veterans, including Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress. While two Guptas are relatively unknown, Mr Singh was sought out by several selfie seekers.
Asked if any of them have met the other new entrant to Rajya Sabha, BJP chief Amit Shah, the response was mostly negative. "I didn't get a chance but Gupta-ji did," Sanjay Singh said, pointing to ND Gupta.
A few of the old-timers said Mr Shah sits quietly in his front row seat - on the aisle next to the two-seat block reserved for Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and PM Modi.
Mr Shah joined the Rajya Sabha at the beginning of the Winter Session, which had been cut short owing to the assembly elections in Gujarat.