New Delhi: The “josh” (enthusiasm) of the treasury bench members was at an all time “high” in the Central Hall of Parliament on Thursday when President Ram Nath Kovind mentioned the surgical strikes and the Rafale fighter jets.
While speaking about security during his address to a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha at the start of the Budget Session, the President mentioned the Army’s surgical strikes across the Line of Control in 2016.
“Through the surgical strike, India showed its new policy and strategy. Last year, India joined a handful of countries that possess the Nuclear Triad Capability,” the President said.
The mention of surgical strikes was met with a thumping of desks by members including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other senior Ministers.
As the thumping of the desks continued, President Kovind had to take a long pause to complete his sentence.
The situation was almost the same when he spoke about the country’s defence needs and said that after a gap of many decades, the Indian Air Force is preparing to welcome in the coming months, its new generation of ultra-modern fighter Rafale aircraft and strengthen its strike capabilities.
As he mentioned Rafale, the treasury members again started thumping the desks for around a minute.
“My government believes that neglecting the country’s defence needs even for a moment is detrimental to the present as well as future of the country. The new agreements relating to defence sector signed last year, purchase of new defence equipment and indigenous production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ initiative have all helped in boosting the morale of the defence forces and increasing the country’s military self-reliance,” he said.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was seated in the front row with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran leader L.K. Advani and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda, thumped the desk only once.
Manmohan Singh did not react while the President listed his government’s achievements. But when Kovind spoke of the Bharat Ratna being conferred upon his predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, the former Prime Minister couldn’t resist himself.
Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram was seated in the last row, surrounded by a few party members. He remained seated till the President concluded his speech.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir, Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Mann, and the Congress’ Deepender Singh Hooda were also seen seated in the last row.
Mann and Hooda left the Central Hall in between the speech.
Meanwhile, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s absence emerged as a mystery for all. Generally, she takes the front row but everyone was clueless about her whereabouts on Thursday.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who was seated in the front row, did not react when the President listed the Centre’s achievements including demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax.
He was seen either talking to party leader Anand Sharma or holding his mobile. On one occasion, he took his headphone and started spinning it for a while. After the conclusion of the address, he spoke to leaders including Union Minister Ram Das Athawale.
BJP President Amit Shah, who was also in the front row along with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, was among the first to be seated.
He reached the Central Hall almost half-an-hour before the proceedings began.
Unlike the previous years, many of the seats specially in the last row remained vacant till the end of the function.
Some seats in the third and fourth row were also unoccupied.