Oppn protest over CAA during presidential address; TMC MPs raise 'No-CAA' banners

New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday delivered the Presidential address to the joint sitting of Parliament, outlining the government's policy, amid sloganeering and protest by opposition members against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

A section of opposition members, primarily from the Congress, wore black bands while others came with banners against the amended Citizenship act, a pan India National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the National Population Register (NPR).

Before the Presidential address which marks the commencement of the Budget Session, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla escorted Kovind to the Central Hall.

The address was in Hindi and lasted for nearly 70 minutes.

When Kovind read out excerpts related to abrogating provisions of Article 370 that gave Jammu and Kashmir a special status, many members applauded.

However, the longest applause was when he read out excerpts on the CAA. The ruling party members continued to thump the desk for nearly half-a minute.

At this point some opposition members raised 'shame, shame' slogans.

As a mark of protest, opposition members including Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, did not sit at their designated seats in the front row.

Instead, they sat in the fifth row along with party MPs Shashi Tharoor, Manish Tewari and Benny Behnan.

Several Congress MPs, including Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Gaurav Gogoi, were seen sporting black bands as a mark of protest.

Seated in the front rows were External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seated along with Social Justice Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot while former prime minister Manmohan Singh was the only one from the opposition who was seated in the front row which is the norm.

When Congress leader and MP Rahul Gandhi came to the Central Hall, he passed by Shah, who was sitting in the front row but the two did not exchange pleasantries.

He took a seat in the fifth row in the same column along with Sonia Gandhi, Tharoor, Tewari, Azad and Behnan.

Towards the end of Kovind's address, Trinamool Congress (TMC) members raised banners of 'No CAA, No NRC, No NPR'. The MPs had come well prepared as all banners had an identical print.

TMC's Rajya Sabha MP Dereck O'Brien, who was sitting in the second row, recorded the protest on his mobile phone. PTI PR RHL