President Patil speech marred by disruptions

New Delhi: Disruptions on issues like Telangana, atrocities on Sri Lankan Tamils, sub-quota for minorities, and shortage of fertilisers today marred President Pratibha Patil`s Address to the joint sitting of Parliament.

MPs raised slogans to press their demands during Patil`s last Address to Parliament before she completes her term in July. Even Congress members from Andhra Pradesh, who are demanding Telangana statehood, disrupted her speech by raising slogans of "Jai Telangana".

Ironically, while Patil appealed to the members to work together "in a spirit of constructive cooperation" to discharge business in the two Houses of Parliament in this session, her own speech was disrupted five times.

Even before Patil began her speech, DMK members were on their feet asking the government whether it would support a US resolution to be moved in the UN against the Sri Lankan government for allegedly committing atrocities against Tamils living in that country when the war against LTTE was nearing its end.

Towards the end of Patil`s Address, the same issue was flagged by AIADMK member V Maitreyan. Patil waved at him asking him to take his seat.

A reference by Patil to her government`s recent decision to provide 4.5 per cent sub-quota within the OBC quota for minorities also led to protests. Hukmadev Narayan Yadav (BJP) was on his feet to protest, saying the right of OBCs will be affected.

When Patil enumerated the steps being taken to increase fertiliser production, JD-U member from Jehanabad Jagdish Sharma alleged that farmers were not getting fertiliser.

The Presidential Address did not seem to enthuse members, most of whom looked disinterested and somnolent while Patil was speaking. In fact, a couple of senior members were literally caught napping while the Presidential Address was on.

Before Patil`s arrival, the Central Hall was abuzz with the presence of Samajwadi Party MP from Kanauj and Chief Minister-designate of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav.

Yadav went around the House shaking hands and seeking blessings of members from across the political spectrum. He also walked up to Congress President Sonia Gandhi`s seat and greeted her with folded hands, bowing.

MPs also appeared eager to congratulate Akhilesh with a member even clicking his photograph on his mobile phone. Sonia Gandhi went to SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav`s chair to wish him on his party`s success in UP. Many noticed the absence of Rahul Gandhi, who is apparently lying low after his party failed to perform well in UP in the recent Assembly elections despite all his efforts.

Patil was seated while delivering her Address though she usually prefers to stand during her speeches. Her rendition, however, was smooth barring a couple of times when she appeared to falter slightly.

Some of the announcements by Patil drew applause from the members. These include the reference to launch of Agni-IV missile and the proposed induction of Light Combat Aircraft `Tejas` into the Air Force and high voter turnout of 80 per cent in the recent Panchayat polls in Jammu and Kashmir, and the target to increase expenditure on health to 2.5 per cent of GDP by end of 12th Plan.