The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Vajpayee grim, Sonia grimmer

New Delhi, Dec. 20: Both Houses of Parliament were today adjourned sine die after a 23-day winter session, which was cordial but for the jarring note at the end struck by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Sonia Gandhi’s failure to exchange customary greetings.

Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi was satisfied that “the entire winter session was conducted in an atmosphere of cordiality and friendliness”. But on the closing day, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition chose to avoid even eye contact.

Sonia, in a printed saree and black jacket, reached the House a little after 4 pm when a discussion on sugarcane farmers was on. Vajpayee walked in half-an-hour later, in a dark blue bandhgala.

Being a Friday and the last day of the session, attendance was thin. The Prime Minister sat next to his deputy, L.K. Advani. Sonia had deputy Speaker P.M. Sayeed for company.

The front rows of the BJP and the Congress benches appeared in the grip of the winter chill. Both Vajpayee and Sonia looked stiff.

While the Prime Minister tried at times to relax, the leader of the Opposition was grim throughout. She almost ran out through the side of the Speaker’s podium soon after the House was adjourned at 5.10 pm and parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan came around wishing members.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani stood up after the adjournment and was seen looking towards the Congress benches. A grim Sonia did not look around and left the House soon after. Advani followed a little later.

After their famous spat during end-of-session speeches during the last budget session, it was decided that there would be no address by the Prime Minister and the leader of Opposition this time and that the House would close with a statement by Speaker Manohar Joshi.

Joshi was ebullient. Overlooking the bitterness between the Big Two, he said: “This session has been very fruitful. In comparison to 2000 and 2001, the House transacted much more business. As against a loss of 28 hours in monsoon session, in this session only three hours were lost due to interruptions.”

The Speaker thanked members for “the smooth and orderly conduct” of the House.

Mahajan added that “not only quantity, the quality (of legislative business done during the session) will impact on society for generations to come”.

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