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Jaitley breaks ice, walks up to opposition before budget
Saturday February 28, 2015 5:58 PM, IANS

The government sought to reach out to the opposition ahead of the budget presentation in the Lok Sabha Saturday with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley walking up to the opposition benches and chatting with senior leaders, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Jaitley entered the house a good 10 minutes before his budget speech and spoke with Gandhi and other leaders, including Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath.

Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, who sits next to Sonia Gandhi, also shook hands with the finance minister, who was then seen having a conversation with former union minister Kamal Nath.

The Congress leader in fact followed Jaitley back to his seat.

Opposition leaders have been up in arms against the ordinance to amend the land acquisition bill. The government has been trying to reach out to many parties, specially the Congress to get the bill passed.

Many MPs had to squeeze into their seats with the Lok Sabha witnessing a full house in view of the budget and a few found accommodation only with difficulty.

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, who came in at least five minutes after the speech had begun was accommodated by Health Minister J.P. Nadda who quickly vacated his seat for her.

While Nadda went and sat elsewhere, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was sitting next to him, found himself flanked by two formidable women - Uma Bharti and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.

A smiling Parrikar leaned forward to let the women have a conversation.

Jaitley, who had undergone a surgery last year, was asked by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan whether he wanted to continue with his speech while sitting.

To this, the finance minister replied that he would "seek the chair's permission if required". But soon thereafter he sat down for most of his one-and-a-half hour speech though he got up again before finishing.

Many members of an otherwise quiet opposition protested when the finance minister announced turning certain heritage sites into tourist destinations.

Trinamool Congress MPs, who were seen protesting that their state doesn't find mention in the heritage places list, fell silent after West Bengal was given a special development grant.

Some terms, which the finance minister used, left not only the layman but also some MPs clueless.

For example when Jaitley announced the GIFT in Gujarat, opposition MPs were seen shouting "what is that".

GIFT or Gujarat International Finance Tec-City has been envisaged as an international finance centre, which would have avenues to fully exhibit and exploit India's financial acumen.

As soon as the house broke up after the budget speech, NDA leaders came up to congratulate Jaitley.

However, the biggest pat on the back was from veteran leaders L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was listening to the speech with his earphones on, also congratulated the finance minister.

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