On Rekhaji's stage, Jaya blazes
New Delhi, May 15: Rekha Ganesan, MP — "Rekhaji" if you share Mulayam Singh Yadav's sense of propriety — had an electrifying effect on Jaya Bachchan today.
First the trivia: No, no one noticed the two greeting each other in the Rajya Sabha.
Yes, Jaya was busy poring over parliamentary papers — a detail diligently recorded by alert Rajya Sabha TV camerapersons — when Rekha walked up to the mike.
Yes, Jaya did look up and thump the desk when Rekha took the oath.
Now the substance: Jaya put up one of her most spirited — some would say audacious — performances in the Upper House today.
Rekha was not in the House when Jaya stood up and let the heavy artillery blaze — never mind some volleys were fired before the starter's gun went off.
Rekha had thrown the MPs into an expected tizzy when she arrived to take oath and launch her term as nominated member. The change was underscored by Mulayam Singh, whose party had sent Jaya to the same House.
Jaya was with Mulayam Singh when reporters asked the Samajwadi Party leader about his reaction to "Rekha" becoming a member.
Mulayam Singh requested the journalists to refer to her as "Rekhaji", not "Rekha". "There is a difference between seeing her on screen and seeing her in person," he pointed out.
Asked if he would call Rekha to congratulate her, the former wrestler showed why it would take more than a gaggle of journalists to pin him down. "Please give me the phone number," Mulayam Singh deadpanned.
It is not known if Jaya used the same device to convey her greetings to Rekha. Otherwise, there was little exchange between the two in the House.
That does not mean there was any dearth of drama. When Rekha entered the House at 10.57am, she was surrounded by several MPs from across the political spectrum.
Sitting some metres away, Jaya tried her best to ignore the commotion as she busied herself with reading parliamentary papers. They would have sat barely at an arm's length had Jaya not requested a change of seat earlier this month. (See graphic)
"I, Rekha Ganesan..." she took the oath in the name of God and in English.
In case the suspense is killing…. Yes, Jaya continued to read the day's agenda papers.
Nineteen minutes and 23 seconds into the proceedings, Rekha stood up, shook hands with two members and made a quiet exit.
That was when the curtain went up on the real action.
During Question Hour, which was under way, Jaya kept raising her hand to catch Hamid Ansari's attention and be allowed to speak. She didn't get an opportunity.
Jaya seized the opportunity when it was time for Zero Hour, the window during which all issues can be discussed provided notice had been given before 10am.
After a BJP member raised the plight of 1,200 Indian workers allegedly held captive in Angola, minister Vayalar Ravi said the government was awaiting a report from the envoy and, if necessary, they would be brought back at government expense.
But an agitated Jaya stood up. Her party colleague, Naresh Agarwal, said Jaya wanted to speak as she had a "point of order".
Point of order is a provision that allows any member to bring to the Chair's notice any instance of a suspected breach of order or a transgression that the Chair has not noticed. After standing up and saying "point of order", a member should quote the specific rule or the provision thought to have been flouted.
"Under what rule? You have to tell the rule," P.J. Kurien, who had taken over from Ansari, told Jaya.
Jaya said she was "really amazed at the way we are functioning. There was a report in the papers today that there were 13 Indians who have died in a plane crash".
Kurien said: "It is not a point of order. I have to go by the rules."
By then, prodded by Agarwal, Jaya had realised that the issue at hand was not yesterday's plane tragedy in Nepal but the fate of the Indian workers in Angola.
She said there had been a news report about Angola and the issue has been in the media space for some days now and only when it was raised today had the minister come up with the clarification.
But Kurien insisted that Jaya give a notice if she wanted a discussion. He said the Chairman (Vice-President Hamid Ansari) would consider the notice.
That brought out the sting.
"So, we are at your mercy, Sir," said Jaya.
Kurien, whose tone suggested he was pained, then painstakingly explained: "Please understand the rule. In Zero Hour, if you had given the notice in advance to the Chairman, the Chairman would have considered it and allowed it. Thus, 10 notices were allowed. During Zero Hour, to react or not to react, it is up to the government. Here, the minister (Ravi) was very kind enough to come and reply. So, that is over. You cannot raise it again. That is what I am saying. Still, if you want a discussion, I advise you to give a notice. The honourable Chairman will consider it. The rule is the same for everybody. Madam, please understand it. I have a lot of consideration for you. But what can I do? The rule is same for everybody."
Agarwal appealed to the Chair to allow her to speak and, in jest, accused Kurien of being dictatorial. Kurien asked the transcribers to expunge the accusation of his "friend" Agarwal.
Kurien said he had the greatest of "consideration" for Jaya but rules were rules.
Jaya walked up to leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley to complain about how Kurien wasn't allowing her to speak and said she would take up the matter with Chairman Ansari. Jaya then left the House to meet Ansari.
She returned some minutes later, looking more at ease. Junior parliamentary affairs minister Rajeev Shukla went up to her seat to discuss her complaint.
Not that Jaya — this is her second stint as MP — has not spoken out before. She had earlier raised issues such as women's empowerment and movie piracy.
But today's forceful assertions stood out. The Telegraph is certain to be pilloried for focusing on trivial issues in the august House. But the newspaper could not resist asking a psychologist if a person's behaviour can change in the presence of someone perceived as a rival.
Madhumati Singh, a senior psychologist in New Delhi, replied: "One's behaviour tends to show signs of restlessness, being edgy, or jittery in the presence of a person with whom one has had unresolved emotional upheavals or rivalry."
If you are about to heave a sigh of relief and conclude that at least the clichéd Silsila had been spared, you forgot Amar Singh, the estranged self-styled brother of Amitabh Bachchan.
Outside the House, Amar claimed that he congratulated Rekha today and that he knew her father Gemini Ganesan well.
Amar thought it pertinent to add that his favourite Rekha film was Silsila, particularly the scene where "Amitji" and the character played by Rekha are locked in an embrace during a boat ride.
|ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY G.S. MUDUR|