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Nine stay in House, rest trickle out

New Delhi, Aug. 1: Lawmakers were in a holiday mood today. The day-long drizzle and cloudy sky contributed to the members’ indifference to parliamentary matters, as did the looming weekend recess.

Friday afternoons are usually set aside for Independent MPs, but at 5 pm today, the Lok Sabha had just nine MPs present out of a total of 544.

Those present included three ministers and a Shiv Sena MP, Suresh Ramarao Jadhav.

The ministers attending proceedings were defence minister George Fernandes, labour minister Sahib Singh Verma and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Santosh Gangwar.

Fernandes, fresh from his sortie in a MiG-21 at Ambala, had no business in the House. He was perhaps expecting kudos for his flight, but with only four NDA members present and a discussion afoot on ways to protect workers’ interests, no one complimented the minister.

Instead, Fernandes spent his time browsing a file and a brochure full of colour pictures.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, his deputy L.K. Advani and human resources minister M.M. Joshi had flown to Ayodhya to attend the funeral of Mahant Ramchandradas Paramhans.

Verma had to be present because the discussion related to his ministry and Gangwar was required as he is the junior parliamentary affairs minister. Jadhav was participating in the discussion on workers’ rights. Three Congress MPs were present.

Others attending proceedings were CPM’s Basudev Acharya, who moved the motion, and Samajwadi Party’s Ramjilal Suman, who participated in the debate.

Question hour and zero hour saw a reasonable attendance, but the numbers dwindled after the lunch recess. At 2 pm, barely 35-odd members were visible.

Between 3.15 and 3.45 pm, when a bill on the Bodoland Territorial Council was being introduced, the strength of the House fell to 28. By 5 pm, only nine MPs were present; with 25 minutes left for Parliament to adjourn at 6pm, one Congress MP and a BJP member walked in.

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