MPs at their best on last day of 15th Lok Sabha (Roundup)

New Delhi, Feb 21: The 15th Lok Sabha may have become known more for disruptions and ruckus, but members were seen at their best behaviour as it met for the last day Friday and Manmohan Singh addressed parliament for the last time as prime minister.

The 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14) met for 357 days and 1,338 hours against an average of 600 days and more than 3,700 hours for the first three Lok Sabhas (1952-1967). The most disrupted ever, its productivity was 61 percent with passage of 177 bills.

On the last day, members bid farewell and gave emotional speeches. The house even saw a a full question hour for the first time in this session.

The extended winter session, starting Feb 5, had also witnessed the worst form of protest in the house ever when a member used pepper spray during introduction of a bill on Telangana.

In 12 sittings, the Lok Sabha lost 79 percent of scheduled time to disruptions, and the Rajya Sabha 73 percent.

In his address, Manmohan Singh, who has been prime minister for a decade and has announced he will not seek a third term in case the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) returns to power, said the Indian parliament, despite differences among members, has capacity to rise above partisan strife on key matters.

The passage of the Telangana bill was an indication that the country is capable of taking tough decisions “without any rancour and without worrying too much about the pros and cons”, he said.

The prime minister said that in parliamentary proceedings, there are bound to be differences among parties, “but there must also be ways and means to bring pathways, to bring minimum amount of consistency and reconciliation” so that matters can move forward.

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the 15th Lok Sabha may have witnessed many disruptions but it passed some landmark bills.

“The nation awaited for Lokpal (bill) for 40 years.. I feel proud that this Lok Sabha passed the Lokpal bill. People were waiting for Telangana bill for years…” she said naming some of the bills.

“My brother (Parliament Affairs Minister) Kamal Nath sometimes stirred trouble with his mischief, (Home Minister Sushilkumar and Leader of the House) Shinde ji used to resolve it with his decency. Between this mischief and decency was Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, the mild-mannered prime minister, the speaker’s patience and L.K. Advani’s sense of justice, these are what kept the house ticking,” she added.

Meira Kumar also addressed the lower house for the last time as speaker and thanked the members for electing her as the first woman in the post.

She also recounted the work done by the 15th Lok Sabha, in passing bills like the ones banning manual scavenging, on sexual harassment of women at workplace, amendments in criminal law to make punishment for rape more stringent, the right to education bill, land acquisition bill, as well as the Lokpal and Telangana bills.

“We succeeded in finding solutions, sometimes failed,” she said, before adjourning the house sine die.

The Rajya Sabha, which saw disruptions every day in the session, lost its question hour on the last day as well, even though proceedings were more or less peaceful for the rest of the day.

It also passed the much awaited Whistle Blowers Protection bill, which has already been passed by the Lok Sabha and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Amendment) Bill, 2011, simplifying the regulations for procuring and possessing narcotic drugs when used for medicinal purposes before being adjourned sine die.

IANS