The Rajya Sabha is set to have a new seating arrangement from the next session of Parliament. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, both Rajya Sabha members and cabinet ministers, do not occupy front benches in the House. They would, from the next session. Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Suresh Prabhu, who is no longer a minister, is set to lose his front bench seat, as will Y S Chowdary, who recently quit the Telugu Desam Party to join the BJP.
The Rajya Sabha has two electronic displays that show the name of the MP speaking, her party affiliation, time allowed for the speech, time taken and time elapsed. Until now, the Lok Sabha did not have such displays, but did have big screens that showed the proceedings live. This week on, these screens also show the names of the MPs and the time they have taken for their speech, but not always with happy results for the chair. On Tuesday during the debate on the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill, Apna Dal’s Anupriya Patel (pictured) protested when she was asked to wrap up her speech in four minutes. Patel said Speaker Om Birla was being unfair to her as he had given over eight minutes to her preceding speaker, Sukhbir Singh Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal, whose party also has two MPs, as does her party. Birla said Patel was challenging his decision, and warned her not to do that in the future. Initially, Patel was identified on the screen as Nalin Kateel of the BJP.
Outside Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s office in North Block, you can now see a row of small lockers. Visitors who meet her are expected to deposit their mobile phones and other electronic devices in one of those lockers and take the keys with them. Once the meeting with the FM is over, they must retrieve their belongings and leave the keys in the lockers for the next person.