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The Prime Minister's rare departure from etiquette.

AFTER months of spewing venom on each other, how refreshing it was to see the Treasury and the main Opposition benches exhibiting a kind of warmth rarely seen in recent times.

After the passage of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, government ministers were effusive in their praise for the BJP leaders and acknowledged that the Bill would not have passed but for their whole- hearted support.

The Opposition reciprocated with Sushma Swaraj congratulating the government for " accommodating" them as far as possible.

She particularly singled out finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, minister of state in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan and HRD minister Kapil Sibal for showing " flexibility" on many issues that the two sides had battled over for long in recent days.

For all the bonhomie, there was something that stuck out like a sore thumb. Parliament is not only about rules but also about etiquette and conventions.

It is due to these conventions that when a Speaker is unanimously elected, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition jointly escort the new incumbent to the High Chair.

Another convention has it that when a critical Bill is passed with the Opposition extending full support to the government, the Prime Minister walks across the aisles to thank the Opposition benches for the support.

That Manmohan Singh left the house much before the vote may mean that he had pressing engagements.

Or maybe his office failed to remind him of the etiquette.

In the past, Manmohan has always given the Opposition its due. The Opposition's role is to oppose, but when it backs the government on crucial legislation, the message that goes out is that the House is one on an issue of national interest.

It was the Prime Minister who made the passage of the nuke Bill a prestige issue and sent his ministers out to woo the Opposition. The PMO should have reminded him of the courtesy reciprocation.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Aug 30, 2010
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