First woman President delivers maiden address to joint sitting

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New Delhi, Feb 25 (UNI) The four-month-long Budget session of Parliament began here today with the customary address by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil at the historic Central Hall.

Watched by her husband Devisingh Shekhawat from the VIP gallery, the first woman President addressed Parliament for nearly 50 minutes.

This was her first address to the joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament after she took over as the President of India from Dr A P J Abdul Kalam in July last year.

Sitting on her chair, flanked by Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and Rajya Sabha Chairman Mohammed Hamid Ansari, Ms Patil read out the 19-page written speech.

Earlier, she was led to the House ceremonially by Mr Chatterjee, Mr Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx The members of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti(TRS) shouted slogans in support of statehood for Telangana and walked out of the Central Hall even as President Pratibha Devisingh Patil was addressing a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament today.

Three TRS members, who were present in the Central Hall, shouted "Jai Telangana" immediately after the President began her speech.

They repeatedly shouted the slogan three more times before staging a walkout. They stood up for nearly five minutes, holding placards in support of their demand.

The TRS has an effective strength of four members with Mr A Narendra quitting the party a few months ago to join the BSP.

Out of the four members, TRS chief K Chandrasekhar Rao was absent from the House.

The members who shouted slogans were : Mr Ravinder Naik Dharavath, Mr B Vinod Kumar, Mr Madhusudhan Takkala Reddy.

The TRS, which fought the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in the company of the Congress in the Telangana region in Andrha Pradesh, fell out with the ruling UPA coalition in protest against the delay in creating a separate Telangana state.

In fact, Mr Chandrasekhar Rao had resigned from the Manmohan Singh government a year ago on the Telangana issue.

TRS members have threatened to resign their membership of the Lok Sabha if the government did not take concrete steps towards creation of a Telangana state.

xxxxxxxxxxxxx Former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee was conspicuous by his absence on the first day of the Budget session which began here today with the customary address by President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.

Mr Vajpayee has been not keeping well for some time. However, he briefly attended the last session held three months ago.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi were seen seated together in the front row at the Central Hall of Parliament when President Pratibha Devisingh Patil was addressing the Joint Sitting.

Though they have been members of the Lok Sabha for the past four years, this was the first time that they were seated in adjoining seats inside the Parliament.

This is seen as a clear indication of the increasing importance being given to the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family who was given an important party post in the AICC and a membership in the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy making body of the party, a year ago.

Former Union Minister Omar Abdullah was also seen seated next to his father and former Kashmir Chief Minister Farook Abdullah in the third row.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee were in adjoining seats in the front row.

UNI SH RR AS1249

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