Parliament sets new practice of Sengol procession ahead of President's address

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Droupadi Murmu Sengol

New Delhi: Setting a new practice, President Droupadi Murmu on Wednesday entered the new Parliament Building escorted by Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla with an official carrying the 'Sengol', adopted as a cultural symbol by the government.

Ahead of President Murmu's arrival, Rajeev Sharma, a senior Marshal in the Lok Sabha and dressed in traditional attire with decorated scarf and a turban, removed the Sengol and walked in a procession with Speaker Birla, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi and Secretaries General of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Utpal Kumar Singh and P C Mody in tow amid drum rolls.

President Murmu reached the new Parliament Building in a six-horse buggy accompanied by the Presidential Bodyguards riding horses.

Vice President Dhankhar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Birla welcomed her at the Gaja Dwar of the Parliament building and proceeded to the Lok Sabha chamber in a procession led by the officer carrying the Sengol reverentially.

A band of musicians played the 'Hathroi' tune as the president entered the Lok Sabha chamber amid loud applause by the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha assembled together. Slogans of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai', 'Jai Shri Ram', 'Jai Siya Ram' and 'Jai Jagannath' rent the air as President Murmu took her seat in the Chamber.

The Sengol was placed in front of the president's desk throughout her address and accompanied Murmu till the Gaja Dwar of Parliament building as she exited the chamber after her speech. The gold-plated sceptre was placed in its case next to the Speaker's chair later.

The first row chairs in the six viewing galleries in the Lok Sabha Chamber were removed as part of the additional security measures taken after two persons jumped into the chamber from the public gallery and set off smoke canisters on December 13 last year.

As many as 58 diplomats, including the ambassadors of Brazil, Egypt, Maldives and Nepal, and High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, were in attendance.

Attendance was thin for President Murmu's address to the members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha as many empty seats were seen in the cavernous Lok Sabha chamber that has a seating capacity of 888 persons.

The president's 75-minute speech was peppered with frequent applause and thumping of desks by the members of the ruling alliance. The loudest applause was heard when President Murmu mentioned the passage of the women’s reservation bill and the building of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya.

The Lok Sabha chamber reverberated with chants of Jai Shri Ram and Jai Siya Ram when she said "Ram Lalla has now been enshrined in his grand temple in Ayodhya after waiting for centuries".

The president quoted from poems by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and famous Odiya poet Utkalmani Gopalbandhu Das during her speech.

While the ruling party members applauded Murmu at regular intervals during her address, the opposition members listened to the speech in silence, barring a stray "no reference to Manipur" remark from Congress member T N Prathapan.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge and leader of the Congress in Parliament Sonia Gandhi were seated in the first row, which was occupied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh, BJP president J P Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, S Jaishankar, Arjun Munda, Smriti Irani, Narayan Rane, Virendra Kumar and Dharmendra Pradhan.

Two seats, allotted to former prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh remained vacant. While Gowda was seen sitting in the last row, Singh was not present in the House.

BJP Rajya Sabha member Nagendra Ray alias Anant Maharaj was dressed in traditional attire of the Rajabongshi community of West Bengal.