The just-concluded winter session of the Rajya Sabha, the first session for new Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu, saw a few “firsts” as part of reforms he brought in the proceedings in the upper House.
On the very first day of the session on December 15, Naidu, who was elected as Vice President, told the Ministers to stop saying “I beg to…” before laying papers on the table, something that he repeated a few days later.
Normally, Ministers say “I beg to lay on the table of the House papers listed under my name” while laying papers or reports in the House. Naidu told the Ministers and other members of the House to do away with this colonial lexicon.
“Just say, I rise to lay the papers or simply, I lay the papers on the table of the House,” Naidu told them.
He also proved to be quite a disciplinarian as Chairman. He chided Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel for indulging in an argument directly with a member.
“No cross arguments…only address the Chair,” he told the Minister and other Members.
On another occasion, he reprimanded the members for “constantly” talking with each other.
“Some members keep talking with each other. I noticed this even when I was reading obituary references. Sometimes the mic gets on automatically and the voice comes out. This does not send a good message. So please don’t do this,” he said.
On one occasion, he termed the Members’ absence from the House during the Question Hour a”bad practic”.
He also asked the members to be crisp with their questions as well as Zero Hour submissions so that more members could be accommodated. He told the Ministers to be precise with their replies. And his efforts did bear fruit.
On January 2, the Rajya Sabha could take up even an extra Zero Hour submission besides all the listed 10 mentions. All Special Mentions were also made, a feat achieved for the first time in 15 years. Also, the House completed all the starred questions (meant to be orally answered by the Ministers concerned) on the same day.
“I am glad to note that the leaders of all the parties in the House and the Members as well were delighted over the positive media reports of the House creating a record of taking up all the listed Starred Questions on January 2 after 15 long year,” he said in his valedictory remarks on Friday.
“I am happy to note that there has been a certain degree of change in the way the proceedings were held in this august House.”
He advised the Ministers to make it a point to get back to the Members about their concerns and queries raised in the House either as Zero Hour submissions or as Special Mentions.
Known for his witty one-liners, Naidu did not let go of this habit as Chair.
“No change of dress, only change of address,” he remarked about his change of accommodation after becoming the Vice President although he still wears his traditional dhoti and shirt.
On one occasion he told an MP, who raised a Point of Order: “There is no order in your Point of Order”.
Pleased with the completion of all the listed business of Zero Hour on January 2, Naidu told the Members: “My operation depends on your cooperation.”
On occasions, he also indulged in some light-hearted banter with the members. Once during the Question Hour, as Members raised questions about consumer protection against misleading advertisements, Naidu related his personal experience of how he was once duped by a shady company selling weight loss medicines.
However, for the first time perhaps, the live telecast of the House on Rajya Sabha Television was blacked out on two occasions during ruckus in the House. Naidu instructed that nothing would go on TV as he did not want the world too see “such scenes” in the upper House.