| Shabana Azmi
New Delhi, Aug. 22: A half-empty Rajya Sabha marked the end of its monsoon session today by bidding farewell to nine nominated members.
Kuldip Nayyar, Raja Ramanna, Shabana Azmi, Mrinal Sen, Chaudhary Harmohan Singh, C. Narayana Reddy, Kartar Singh Duggal, Silvi Das and DMK’s Pondicherry member Kartarunavakarasu took their last bow in the Upper House before retiring later this month.
The Opposition members, however, were not there to share their memories of the retiring members’ contributions as they continued their boycott of the Upper House over the government not sharing a vigilance report on defence deals with the Public Accounts Committee.
Rajya Sabha chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat waxed philosophical, saying the House will miss the members who are distinguished in their own fields, but life must go on.
“It is a with a heavy heart we have to say farewell to our members,” vice-chairperson Najma Heptullah said.
The leader of the House, Jaswant Singh, said the members’ “unusual contribution of talent and beauty” over six years had been enlightening.
Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Nirupam remembered the tears Shabana had shed while debating an emotive issue in the House. Such moments had managed to bridge their political differences, he said.
Nayyar, a veteran journalist, said in his last speech that the Opposition’s continued boycott was uncalled for. Criticising parliamentarians of today for having lost credibility with the people, he said the government should consider the Kashmir issue more seriously. He was earlier described as the lone voice of India-Pakistan friendship.
Shabana, an actress and a social activist, said she would miss the debates on bills for women’s reservation.
In her farewell speech, she suggested a way out of the reservation standoff. All political parties, she said, should reserve 33 per cent of their poll tickets for women. Dual membership was no solution as men would continue to dominate and gender justice would be denied, Shabana said.
The nine members also urged the chairman to give their successors more time in the House to share their views on important matters. They said MPs belonging to political parties often got more speech time, unlike nominated members who would have to make do with a few minutes and that, too, late in the day.
Shekhawat promised to keep the interests of nominated members in mind from the next session on.
He took the opportunity to criticise members of the Congress and other Opposition parties for being absent from the House. All political parties had been consulted to ensure at least 25 per cent attendance at any point of time to promote vibrant and participatory democracy, he said.
Heptullah and Jaswant Singh regretted the absence of almost half the House. This was perhaps the first time that the Upper House was being adjourned sine die with most of the Opposition absent.