Modi thumps away Jaitley’s budget speech (Budget Sidelights)

New Delhi, Feb 29 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the virtual leader of the thumping brigade in the Lok Sabha on Monday as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s budget speech was hailed by the treasury benches.

The prime minister, who heard Jaitley attentively, welcomed every major announcement by thumping the desk.

Modi, who entered the Lok Sabha shortly before Jaitley stood to present the budget, initiated the desk thumping on most occasions. His colleagues promptly followed him.

Modi was also the first to congratulate Jaitley after he concluded the speech.

Seated on the first row with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Modi was very friendly vis-a-vis his cabinet colleagues. He shared some lighter moments, especially with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh.

When Modi entered the house, he briefly chatted with union minister Giriraj Singh and then moved to his seat, giving a friendly smile to other MPs.

Seeing him, most members of the treasury benches, including Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, stood up and welcomed him with folded hands.

But Jaitley, union minister Nitin Gadkari and party veteran L.K. Advani remained seated.

Modi also greeted opposition members with folded hands.

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After almost 10 minutes, Jaitley sought the Chair’s permission to sit and read his speech. He seemed to be suffering from back pain.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi listened carefully to the budget speech while vice president Rahul Gandhi at times spoke with Congress colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia.

On two occasions, Rahul Gandhi was seen speaking on his mobile phone.

Rahul Gandhi thumped the desk once when Jaitley mentioned his name while announcing that braille paper will be made duty free — a demand the Congress leader has made in the past.

During the speech, Sonia Gandhi took out a piece of paper, wrote something and gave it to Rahul, who read it and returned it to his mother with a quick reply.

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While half of the budget speech was over, disgruntled BJP MPs Shatrughan Sinha and Kirti Azad entered the house at the same time but from different gates. Both looked at each other and then took their seats.

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The Speaker’s gallery was packed, with some guests seated on the floor.

Jaitley’s wife Sangita as well as son and daughter were present. So was BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.

Some guests in the gallery had written their occupation in the visitors’ book as “Swayamsewak”.

One of the galleries was full of Rajya Sabha members, including Ashwini Kumar and T. Subbirami Reddy of the Congress, BJP’s M.J. Akbar, RPI’s Ramdas Athawle, SAD’s Naresh Gujral and RJD’s Premchand Gupta.

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After the budget speech, Jaitley was surrounded by party colleagues. BJD leader B.J. Panda shook hands with him.

Modi too congratulated Jaitley, spoke to some of his colleagues briefly and, while leaving, shook hands with some officers from the Prime Minister’s Office and his personal staff. One of them touched Modi’s feet.

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