Dressed more colourfully than usual, several legislators were seen enthusing each other with shouts of "Bharat Mata ki Jai" and "Vande Mataram" as they trotted to the new Parliament building on Tuesday. If an occasional chant of "Jai Shri Ram" disconcerted some Opposition members — a few later termed it "intimidating" — their more sociable colleagues in the ruling party reached out with a "Jai Hind".
These scenes were part of the day’s highlights as Prime Minister Narendra Modi led his party's members of Parliament (MPs) from the old Parliament building, which he proposed should be called ‘Samvidhan Sadan’, to the new ‘Sansad Sadan’. He was flanked by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President J P Nadda.
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla walked separately, while those from parties other than the BJP walked later in their respective groups. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a hardbound copy of India's Constitution as he walked along with Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, his party's leader in the Lok Sabha, and others, including some from the INDIA bloc allies.
Even those Opposition members who had earlier had reservations about a shift to the new building — despite having to sit in inconvenient proximity to each other in the space-starved chambers of the old building — liked the spacious environs of the new building. Backbenchers in the old Parliament building found they were no longer so in the new one, which has factored in the increased number of MPs after a delimitation exercise. Some found they had been, unwittingly, promoted to the front rows.
Leaders of parties, however, complained they were yet to get their party offices in the new complex. They would continue to work from their old offices for now.
In the morning, MPs turned up for a group photo session in the old Parliament building with senior leaders, including the PM, Shah, Singh, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Chowdhury, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi and others seated in the first row. More than one Congress leader praised Rahul Gandhi for finding a spot with the party's younger MPs in a corner in the second-last row.
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While Narhari Amin, 68, a BJP member of the Rajya Sabha fainted during the extended session, Shah, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and some other leaders were seen rushing to his aid. Parliament staff offered him water, and Amin soon joined the group photo.
At the event in the Central Hall, where Presidents customarily address the joint sitting of Parliament on the first day of the first session every year, MPs found it intriguing that President Droupadi Murmu was not present, more so as it was a day when the government planned to introduce the women's reservation Bill. The Lok Sabha started its proceedings in the new building at 1:15 pm. The Rajya Sabha gathered at its scheduled time of 2:15 pm but was adjourned until 2:47 pm, awaiting the PM's arrival from the Lok Sabha.