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'Obama's speech to Parliament would be extremely crucial'

Last updated on: November 01, 2010 16:45 IST
Vicky Nanjappa provides a sneak preview of President Obama's address to Parliament next week.

Parliament is being dressed up for Monday next, November 8, when United States President Barack Obama will address members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in the Central Hall of Parliament.

Former Lok Sabha secretary general Subhash Kashyap told Rediff.com that such exercises are extremely important in a democracy.

This is the second time an American President will address Parliament.

During his visit to India in March 2000, President Bill Clinton addressed Parliament to a rousing reception.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was keen that President George W Bush address Parliament, but the government had to abandon the plan when the Communists and other constituents of the Left Front threatened to protest the US invasion of Iraq during the speech.

Bush ended up making a speech at Purana Qila, where he also interacted with a cross-section of important Indian dignitaries.

During his stint as Russian president, Vladimir Putin addressed Parliament. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the last leader given the honour of addressing Parliament. That was three years ago.

"Such addresses are extremely important since they help build relations with friendly nations," Kashyap told Rediff.com

"Such privileges are usually given only to friendly nations and their heads of State," he added. "Such an exercise is more of a confidence building exercise and it is a way that the head of State approaches the supreme representatives of the people of India."

"I would, however, like to correct everyone on one technical aspect. It is not known as an address to a joint session of Parliament," Kashyap said. "One should say that Obama will be speaking to members of both Houses."

"There have been similar exercises in the past and I would say they shaped up pretty well. There has been no unruly behaviour on the part of members of the House and they have always been disciplined and decorous. Even this time, I hope it remains the same. We have never had any instance where our members have behaved badly when a head of State has addressed Parliament," Kashyap said.

"Obama's speech to Parliament would be extremely crucial since he is the head of the most powerful democracy in the world," Kashyap added. "It does make a huge difference when the most powerful leader of the world is eye to eye with the most important and powerful body of our nation."

This event will mark the debut of the teleprompter in Parliament.

Obama will read his speech from the teleprompter. For such a fine orator -- perhaps the finest of his generation -- Obama is reluctant to speak without the assistance of a teleprompter.

During the speech, where he is expected to support India's case for a permament membership of the United Nations Security Council, no member will be allowed to interrupt or ask questions.

Parliamentary staff will be dressed in traditional Indian attire to welcome Barack and Michelle Obama.

Obama will be accompanied by President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, who is also Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.

First Lady Michelle Obama will be given a special seat in the Central Hall of Parliament.

Following his speech, Obama will sign the Golden Book or Parliament's Visitor's Book.

Also see: Complete coverage: The Obama visit

Vicky Nanjappa