Presidential address sidelights: Sonia, Advani in cosy chat at Central Hall

New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) BJP veteran L.K. Advani and Congress president Sonia Gandhi chatted away on the front row of the Central Hall before President Pranab Mukherjee began his address to the joint session of parliament on Tuesday.

Gandhi stood up and greeted Advani with folded hands as he entered the hall. He took his designated seat next to her and the two leaders could be seen talking.

They spoke with one another even as the president ended his speech marking the beginning of the budget session.

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Flanking Advani were Gandhi on his right and former prime minister Manmohan Singh on his left. Manmohan Singh extended a hand of greeting to Advani after seeing him seated near Gandhi.

Another former prime minister, H.D. Dewe Gowda, was seated next to Manmohan Singh.

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Shortly before President Mukherjee’s arrival, some MPs and even a few foreign delegates took selfies with their colleagues. Many of the MPs were from Gujarat and Punjab.

It was the first time so many MPs were seen taking selfies. Many MPs also snapped away their colleagues.

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, seated a little away with Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, walked up to Gandhi and greeted her. The two exchanged pleasantries.

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Gandhi thumped her desk twice during the presidential address.

The first time was when the president mentioned the supreme sacrifice of security forces during the terror attack at the IAF base at Pathankot. And when he spoke about the induction of women as fighter pilots in the IAF.

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Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Rajiv Pratap Rudy exchanged greeting with most MPs. Ravi Shankar Prasad walked up and down each row of MPs, meeting both ruling party and opposition members.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on his right and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad to his right.

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Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who reached just before the president, was seated behind union ministera Maneka Gandhi, his aunt, and Kalraj Mishra.

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In his address, the president referred to Modi by name once — when he mentioned how he had dedicated the Afghanistan parliament to its people. Immediately, the treasury benches vigorously thumped their desks.

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Later, after the presidential address, Modi was at its friendly best in the Lok Sabha as he went around greeting opposition leaders as well as BJP and NDA MPs.

He spent a few moments with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, holding his hands. Modi also met Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge after the house had been adjounred for the day.

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