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Budget presentation peaceful, thanks to sombre opposition, cheerful treasury benches

Wednesday - February 1, 2017 7:14 pm , Category : BUDGET 2017

New Delhi: A sombre mood overshadowed the Budget proceedings in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday due to the death of sitting IUML MP E. Ahamed, with the opposition Congress, which had asked for postponing the budget by a day, remaining mostly silent - allowing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to read his budget speech unhindered.

The 2017-18 budget, which had for the first time the railway and general budgets merged and was presented around a month earlier than the usual date, saw the ruling party members thumping their desk repeatedly -- amid a largely silent opposition.

The opposition's mood remained grim, and there were very few exchanges between the ruling and opposition benches.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi was not present in the House. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who later called the budget a "damp squib", was seen sitting flanked by party members Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, exchanging words with them from time to time.

As soon as the House met, obituary reference was made to Ahamed, a former minister in the UPA government and a long-time Kerala MP of the Indian Union Muslim League. Ahamed was admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) Hospital after he suffered a cardiac arrest in Parliament's Central Hall during President Pranab Mukherjee's address on Tuesday. He died early on Wednesday.

The members stood in silence for two minutes as a mark of respect to Ahamed.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan announced that the House will not sit on Thursday as a mark of respect to Ahamed, but that the budget has to go on.

"I would have adjourned the house for the day but today's sitting has been specifically fixed by the President for presentation of the Union Budget for the financial year 2017-18 which is a constitutional obligation. In view of this exceptional situation, the House may go ahead with the presentation of the Union Budget," she said, leading to a brief uproar as Congress members wanted the budget to be postponed and the house adjourned.

"I requested you today that the House should be adjourned because E. Ahamed was a very senior member. Nearly 45 years he was there in legislative affairs. As a mark of respect the House must be adjourned today. He was on his duty yesterday. He collapsed at the joint sitting," said Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.

However, as Finance Minister Jaitley stood up to present the budget, the Congress members gave up their protest and sat on their seats.

The opposition members did not even once thump their desks - a usual mark of welcoming an announcement in the House - at any point during the Budget speech, and nor did they voice protests. They just sat very quietly throughout.

The only time a Congress leader, Kharge, interrupted Jaitley was when he was making an announcement on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, but it was not audible as his microphone was switched off.

The ruling NDA party members meanwhile cheered the Finance Minister through the announcements, specially when he hailed demonetisation as a "bold and decisive" step. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also seen thumping his desk as Jaitley mentioned demonetisation.

Jaitley also broke into poetry twice during his speech.

One of them came as he talked about black money.

"Nayi duniya hai, naya daur hai, nayi hai umang

Kuchh the pehle ke tarike to kuchh hain aaj ke dhang,

Roshni aa ke andheron se jo takrayi hai

Kaale dhan ko bhi badalna pada aaj apna rang."

(This is a new world, and new times; the earlier ways have changed. Light has struck the darkness, and black money had to change its colour).

In another verse, he said: "Iss mod pe na dar kar tham jaiye aap, Jo baat nayi hai usse apnaiye aap, dar jate hain nayo raah par kyo chalne se, hum aage aage chalte hain, aaiye aap."

(Don't be scared of moving ahead at this turn, accept the new things. We will walk ahead, follow us).

Talking to reporters later, Kharge responded to the minister's poem and said: "We cannot follow their path, it is not the right path."-IANS
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