New Lok Sabha carries stamp of Modi

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 13, 2014 03:52 hrs

New Delhi: The confidence and the proactiveness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, coupled with the majority his party has got, helped the 16th Lok Sabha get off to a flying start, particularly when the last few sessions of the 15th Lok Sabha would be remembered more for their disruptions than deliberations.

With the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party having a comfortable majority on its own with 281 of the 543 elected seats, the Lok Sabha, used to ruckus and near-riotous situations during the UPA regime, saw business being transacted smoothly after a long time.

The session, which began June 4 on a sad note struck by the death of union minister Gopinath Munde, which reduced the BJP's numbers from 282 to 281, was soon back to business as members took oath -- a whopping 315 of them were new faces.

That the government meant business was evident from the start with the oath-taking being completed virtually within a single day on June 5. On earlier occasions, oath-taking has carried on for almost three days. Only a small number of MPs who were absent took their oaths on the following day.

"Though it is too early to comment on the smooth running, it is true that a single party has full majority in the house and the ruling coalition that is the National Democratic Alliance has a very comfortable majority," M.R. Madhavan, president, PRS legislative research, told IANS.

He said that the important thing to come out of this session is that the President's address has provided a policy document, guiding the new government on its road map for the future. "Earlier in 2009, the UPA-II's policies were a continuation of the earlier policies of UPA-I."

Apart from the fresh faces, the new seating arrangements set the mood of change in the new Lok Sabha as the treasury benches were occupied by BJP members who had for long been accustomed to sit on the left side of the speaker's podium.

On the other hand, the Congress members seemed uncomfortable sitting on the opposition benches, with their party president having to occupy the seat which was earlier warmed by senior BJP leaders like L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj.

There was a tinge of arrogance among the members of a resurgent BJP even as the opposition, led by the Congress, kept reminding them of the need for restraint.

BJP member Rajiv Pratap Rudy set the tone for the ruling benches when he opened the debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address, making caustic comments on the mere 44 seats won by the Congress that led the government for 10 years.

Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge was quick to remind Rudy that if the BJP could grow to 282 seats from a mere two (in 1984), then the Congress could surely manage 400-plus seats from the 44 it got this time.

It was Modi, however, who set the tone for humility and inclusion while replying to the motion of thanks on the president's address. "I don't want to go ahead without you (opposition)," he appealed.

If silence and dignity had defined Manmohan Singh's tenure as prime minister, Modi made it very clear that he would lead from the front. Using his histrionic skills to perfection, he sought to reassure, reconcile and spell out a confident vision for the country as he made his maiden speech in the Lok Sabha.

Again, unlike his predecessor, Modi showed his proactiveness as leader of his party when on some occasions he stayed behind after the house was adjourned and interacted with members of his party and allies. Many members would walk up to him and speak with him probably on issues related to their constituencies.

The prime minister's stamp was also evident on President Pranab Mukherjee's address to the joint session of parliament which laid thrust on use of technology to bring quick results, revive Brand India and on use of social media for participative governance.

During the nearly 12-hour long debate to the motion of thanks on the President's address, in which 52 members took part, there was hardly any disruption, again a departure from the past.

Though the short, June 4-11 session saw only routine business being transacted, hope was in the air that some landmark and pending legislations like the women's quota bill, which seeks to provide 33 percent reservation to women in parliament and state legislatures, would be passed smoothly.

Intervening during the debate, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asked the opposition to help the government pass the bill on women's quota when it would be taken up.

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