There was a light drizzle outside but the mood inside was sunny. The high point of the first day of the monsoon session of Parliament was the presidential election. Narendra Modi was one of the first to vote.
The PM reached a little before time, and to ease the nerves of the polling staff, he joked away their embarrassment at having to ask him to wait. Modi’s good mood was in full display in the Lower House as well—he walked over to the opposition benches to greet Sonia Gandhi and shake Deve Gowda and Mulayam Singh’s hands. The latter has been alerting the government about the Chinese bomb buried in the land of the hostile neighbour! So, everyone wondered, not without humour, if some new inputs were exchanged. Well, the PM then exchanged pleasantries with Rahul Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia too in the hope that it would lead to a ‘GST session’ (growing stronger in togetherness)’—with informed and less bitter debate.
Rahul’s namaste in the air
Farooq Abdullah and P K Kunhalikutty took their oaths as MPs, but there was a bit of awkwardness to the proceedings. As Abdullah Sr came by to greet his fellow MPs in the opposition benches, Rahul Gandhi was seen getting up to shake his hands. But their eyes did not meet and the National Conference patriarch walked past. The Congress VP had to throw a namaste in the air!
Cross-voting did take place
Mulayam Singh Yadav and his brother Shivpal were not the only lawmakers to have cross-voted in the presidential election. Despite the NCP’s fierce denials, Praful Patel ‘did not waste his precious vote on the losing candidate’, Meira Kumar. Ram Nath Kovind may get two-thirds of the electoral college votes. Speculation has it that some TMC MLAs and MPs too voted for the NDA candidate. Mamata Banerjee kept them in Kolkata for fear of cross-voting. But to little avail, it seems.
It was no surprise that Venkaiah Naidu is the NDA’s vice-presidential candidate. The better part of the day was spent in discussing Venkaiah Naidu and how he would conduct proceedings as the ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha. Congress MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi remarked that Venkaiah Naidu has come a full circle: He was the NDA’s first choice, later two other names were floated. To which, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley quipped: “Our system is no different from yours!’’ It seems the BJP top brass had two criteria in mind, legislative experience and representation to the South. Gopal Gandhi, the UPA candidate, in an open letter to Narendra Modi had suggested that the North-South imbalance in the BJP be corrected. As the numbers stand, it’ll be smooth sailing for Venkaiah Naidu.