Missing In Parliament, Sachin And Rekha - Again

Published: December 19, 2016 17:13 IST
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It was personally disappointing for me that the obstinacy of the government and its refusal to permit a free, fair and dignified discussion on demonetisation led to the winter session of parliament being a washout. Very little meaningful debate took place and given its role in the two Houses of parliament, the government must bear responsibility.

However, there were sidelights to the session that may have been missed by the media but require to be brought to attention. Some of them had a strong political message, others provided delightful trivia. For a start, it was remarkable that during such an important and politically charged session, some of the stalwart nominated members of the Rajya Sabha were absent. Sachin Tendulkar continued to be missing from the crease - he hardly shows up - and Rekha made her usual guest appearance.

Of the new nominees sent in by the BJP government, quite a few have joined the party formally and are found sitting in the BJP benches. At least one of them is active in electoral politics. While the BJP is not alone to blame and the Congress had a similar record when in power, I wonder if the original purpose of the 12 nominated seats was to send party politicians and loyalists to  parliament through the backdoor!

The Information and Broadcasting Minister is clearly trying to win brownie points with his party leadership. Little else explains the live telecast on Doordarshan of a BJP parliamentary party meeting. This happened on the last day of the session and that saved it becoming a major issue in the House. Next time, it will be raised. The ruling party cannot convert the national broadcaster to BJP-darshan.

Canteen prices have been revised in parliament. Lunch is still reasonable. A glass of fresh mausambi or orange juice costs Rs 24 and you need only a Rs 50 note to get a plate of chicken biryani and some change back. But the price rise had some old-timers and some journalists complaining.  

The death of Tamil Nadu's Chief Minister Jayalalithaa left many in parliament in grief. She died in her mid-sixties, still relatively young. Friends and adversaries alike remembered her as a skilled politician and a charming person, and a member of the Rajya Sabha many years ago. I attended her funeral and experienced the emotions of not just AIADMK workers but ordinary people.

In parliament, the AIADMK has 50 MPs - 37 in the Lok Sabha and 13 in the Rajya Sabha. Understandably they were away in Chennai and their constituencies for much of the session, especially after the unfortunate death of their leader. The only exception was AIADMK Rajya Sabha MP Sashikala Pushpa, the sole party MP to attend parliament. The "other Sashikala", as she is now known, has projected herself as the dissident in the AIADMK. One day she ran into the well of the House, carrying a portrait of Jayalalithaa, and was trying to say something in the din. 

The annual cricket match between MPs and journalists was scheduled for December 10. At the 11th hour, it was postponed. Many reasons and many egos were cited, but my sense is it fell victim to the bad blood following demonetisation. I wasn't unhappy because I was designated wicket-keeper of the MPs' XI but was recovering from an injury and far from fit. My walks in the crisp winter mornings of Delhi too suffered as a result.

Incidentally, the selection of Kirti Azad, MP from Darbhanga and member of the Indian team that won the Prudential Cup in 1983, was not guaranteed. Apparently his ongoing battle with his party, the BJP, had made his inclusion in the Parliamentarians XI difficult.

To end, some news about a person the Trinamool Congress dearly missed in the Lok Sabha - Abhishek Banerjee, national president of our party's youth wing. He would have been our lead speaker on demonetisation but is still recovering from a nasty car accident and a surgery below his left eye. I am glad to report that he should be fine in a couple of months and is itching to get back to parliament for the budget session. 

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Derek O'Brien is leader, Parliamentary party Trinamool Congress (RS), and Chief National spokesperson of the party.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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