New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha made a rare departure from convention on Monday to allow a motion of condolence to mourn the death of a sitting member, as leaders across the political divide paid rich tributes to former Union finance minister Arun Jaitley instead of just the Chairman making an obituary reference.
A condolence motion, on which leaders of various political parties are allowed to speak, is generally reserved for condoling the death of a sitting or past President, prime minister or a prominent chief minister.
In cases of a sitting and former member, the chair in the Upper House reads out obituary references before members rise as a mark of respect to the memory of the departed. The House adjourns proceedings if a sitting member passes away, while in case of former members, it takes up the listed agenda soon after the mourning.
But since the obituary was of Jaitley, a man who had personally touched the political lives of many leaders across the political spectrum, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu allowed members to speak.
Once the leaders had spoken, Naidu adjourned the proceedings till 2 pm as a mark of respect to Jaitley and Ram Jethmalani, both sitting members.
In his obituary reference, Naidu described Jaitley as a "quintessential politician" and a "man of impeccable integrity" whose stellar contribution is a matter of record.
An advocate by profession and a member of the Upper House since April 2000, Jaitley passed away on August 24 at the age of 66.
"Destiny has untimely snatched a sagacious leader, a legal luminary and a towering intellectual from our midst," Naidu said. "For me, Arunji was an epitome of versatility, a multifaceted genius whose wise counsel and sagacity, I have always relied upon."
"His clarity of thought, the strength of conviction, effective communication skills and ability to present perspectives made his speeches in the House and public forums memorable," Naidu said.
Jaitley, he said, was a democrat to the core and a consummate strategist, knowing when to take a hard stance and when to be accommodative.
"This talent, combined with his innate and unique ability to offer solutions without compromising on the basic position, made him the most-effective interlocutor of the government, both inside and outside the Parliament.
"I hope, all members will ungrudgingly agree that even in times of disagreement over certain issues, they could not help admire the force of Shri Jaitley's viewpoints," Naidu said.
According to the Rajya Sabha chairman, Jaitley's urbane and genteel approach, as well as the friendship that he forged beyond party lines endeared him to one and all.
"In the passing away of Shri Arun Jaitley, the country has lost an outstanding parliamentarian, a legal luminary, an eloquent orator, an able administrator and a man of impeccable integrit, who inspired one and all with his exemplary presence in social, political, legal and economic spheres," Naidu said. "His void is irreparable and will be deeply felt in political circles."
Naidu also mentioned the passing away of Jethmalani on September 8 at the age of 95, as well as former members Jagannath Mishra (82) on August 19, Sukhdev Singh Libra (86) on September 6 and Gurudas Dasgupta (82) on October 31.
While Leader of the House and Union minister Thawarchand Gehlot said Jaitley's death was a personal loss to him, Leader of Opposition and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the personal relationship that the former finance minister shared with other members turned political bitterness into sweetness on most tense issues.
"We haven't seen such a media-savvy minister and leader," Azad said, adding that Jaitley did not stop meeting media personnel and friends even when he was ill during his last days.
Azad said the loss of some persons is not just a loss to the party to which they belong, but to the entire nation.
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said Jaitley was a mentor to many of the new entrants in Parliament despite having diagonally opposite political ideology. He recalled how Jaitley had taken positively his comment on him being a "plantation manager who planted stories" in media sitting in Parliament.
In his obituary reference, Naidu said Mishra was a two-term Rajya Sabha member from April 1988, while Libra represented the state of Punjab in the Upper House from July 1988-May 2004.
Jethmalani, the "undisputed champion of cross-examination", was six-term member since 1988, Naidu said.
Dasgupta represented West Bengal in the Upper House for three terms between March 1985 and April 2000.
Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party recalled the contribution of Dasgupta and termed him a "sharp leader". He said Jaitley was a decent human being and he was saddened with the demise of the senior BJP leader.
Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar recalled the contribution of Jaitley to sports. He said Jaitley often used to discuss issues related to cricket with him.
Terming Jaitley a "bridge-builder", Congress MP Anand Sharma said the Modi government would not have been able to pass big legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) without him.
The House observed silence as a mark of respect to the late leaders.