The retirement of about two-thirds of the members of Rajya Sabha, once in two years, has turned out to be a unique event this year with several firsts marking the retirement of 72 members.
For the group photo taken on such events, which is a coveted item for both the retiring and the continuing members, a record turnout of 203 members of Rajya Sabha was reported this morning including 23 women Members, sources said.
Chairman of Rajya Sabha M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha Harivansh and Ministers, who are members of the House, were also in the frame along with the other members.
Chairman Naidu enquired with the officials about the turnout for the group photo and was accordingly informed.
The last time such a group photo was taken was in 2018 and the same had to be dispensed with in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the attendant restrictions. Sources said that according to the seniors in the Secretariat, today's enthusiastic turnout for the group photo was the highest in memory.
Farewell remarks in Rajya Sabha today for 6 hours and 27 minutes has also been the longest ever with 65 speakers recalling their association with and contributions of the retiring members, sources said.
The speakers included the Chairman, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Chairman, Leader of the Opposition, floor leaders of nine other parties, 11 other members and 40 retiring members.
As per sources, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal in the end responded to the day-long solemn proceedings in the House.
In another first in a long time, six sitting members have volunteered to present musical and vocal performances in honour of the retiring Members at a dinner being hosted tonight by Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu for all the Members of Rajya Sabha, sources said.
At the dinner at Naidu's official residence, about half a dozen Rajya Sabha members will showcase their cultural talents. Sources said that Trinamool Congress leader Santanu Sen will play the Guitar, Trinamool Congress' Dola Sen will present Rabindra Sangeet, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Tiruchi Siva will render a Tamil song, Bharatiya Janata Party's Roopa Ganguly, a Hindi song and another BJP leader Ramachandra Jhangra will present a patriotic song, Nationalist Congress Party leader Vandana Chavan will sing a Hindi song. These individual performances will be followed by a chorus song.
As per sources, mementos will be presented to all the 72 retiring members and another 19 retired earlier who could not receive the mementos.
Senior officials of the Rajya Sabha Secretariat have said that the members of the House will showcase their cultural talents after 20 years at such an occasion.
Sources said seniors in the Secretariat are overwhelmed with the routine biennial retirement turning out to be a unique farewell marked by emotional connect, enthusiasm and camaraderie.