New Delhi, Mar 28 (PTI) Members in the Rajya Sabha, who will be retiring over the next few weeks, today cut across party lines to stress the need for drawing a ‘lakshman rekha’ to protect the dignity of the House while pushing for having meaningful debates on people’s issues.

In their farewell speeches, the members also expressed concern over falling standards of parliamentary debates and emphasised that instead of personal attacks, the larger issues afflicting the people should occupy the centre stage.

Around 60 MPs from 17 states in the Upper House are retiring over the next few weeks at the end of their tenure, including prominent members like Deputy Chairman P J Kurien and nominated members actor Rekha and cricketer Sachin Tendulkar. While most of them retire on April 2, some of them will end their tenure in July.

In his speech, Rajiv Shukla (Congress) said there could be differences of opinion among members of various political parties but there is no place for acrimony and personal enmity.

Harivansh (JD-U) stressed the need for meaningful debates in the House like those witnessed during the times of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and other stalwarts.

“All issues can be sorted out. We need to find the way.

Then we can be called Elders,” he said, associating with the anguish expressed by Chairman Venkaiah Naidu on the deteriorating standards of Parliament.

He also praised Leader of the House Arun Jaitley and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad for raising issues in a dignified manner.

Former minister and NCP leader Praful Patel said a ‘lakshman rekha’ needs to be drawn in terms of conduct in the House. He said his party has never gone into the Well of the House or caused any disruption in the proceedings either.

Tapan Kumar Sen of the CPI(M) said he shared the agony of the Chairman about the functioning of Rajya Sabha.

He said his experience of the 12 years he has been a member of the House has shown that members should collectively come out of the negativity in the political system and not miss the opportunity to grill the ministers in the House.

Senior BSP leader Satish Chandra Misra said many changes were taking place in the elections for the Rajya Sabha. “Money power, muscle power is there. So many changes are taking place. There are so many forces coming in to play when elections (Rajya Sabha) are held,” he said.

Vivek Gupta (TMC) said members should remain away from personal attacks and character assassination of opponents and urged the Chair to continue to have sympathy for the back- benchers who do not get the time to speak.

Anand Bhaskar Rapolu (Congress) said the House truly reflected the ‘idea of India’ and represented the real federal approach. He expressed concern over increasing disparities in the society and between southern states and other states.

La Ganesan (BJP) suggested a change in the rules when those sitting in the gallery are not allowed to stand when the National Anthem is sung in the House.

DMK’s Kanimozhi said sometimes issues are so big that it leads to disruptions in the House. “Cauvery is a big issue in Tamil Nadu. Coming from an agrarian background, I know the plight of the farmers,” she said.

A U Singh Deo (BJD) quoted veteran leader and former Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik and said “In politics, nobody wins or loses. It is a process which goes on and on.” Raising the issue of armed forces, he urged the government to ensure pension to its personnel who retire in 14 years and nine months, instead of providing pension to only those completing 15 years of service.

Naresh Agarwal, who recently quit SP and joined the BJP, sought to apologise if he had hurt any member’s sentiments. He said he can take anything in life but cannot take humiliation.

“I am an open-hearted man. In the past I have said bitter words about Amit Shah but even then he has accepted me in the party (BJP). I must be having some good attributes,” he said.

Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) too praised Jaitley saying he was one cabinet minister who is easily accessible and can be found in the Central Hall of Parliament by retired MPs.

Derek O’ Brien (TMC) said the conduct of a member should be such that on his or her retirement, people should ask why is he or she retiring instead of when he or she is retiring.

TDP member and former minister Y S Chowdhary said the retired members would now get more time to serve the people in various positions. He also sought the support of the House for the grant of special status to Andhra Pradesh.

Earlier this month, Chowdhary and Ashok Gajapathi Raju had resigned from the Narendra Modi government.

Pramod Tiwari (Congress) said he considered the House as a temple of the Constitution and respected it as a temple.

Leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley described the retirement of memberes as a nostalgic occasion.

“We will miss many of the members who are retiring,” Jaitley said.

He appreciated the contributions of members including Naresh Agarwal, Satyavrat Chaturvedi (Cong), D P Tripathi (NCP)and Rajiv Shukla (Cong), wishing them a great life ahead.

Tripathi of the NCP said women’s issues have not been discussed properly in the last six years.

Observing that in a country having history of Vatsyayana and Kama Sutra, Parliament has never discussed sex in a dignified manner, he said, pointing out that in the next five years, about a million Indians will die of sexually transmitted diseases.

In his speech, Kunal Kumar Ghosh (TMC) said he was an unfortunate member who was compelled to stay away from the House as part of a “conspiracy”.

“With due respect to the judicial system, I saw the reality of the system,” Ghosh said, adding that the system was not the same for all. “If anybody says law is the same for all, it is a complete farce,” Ghosh said.

Others who spoke included Shankarbhai N Vegad (BJP), Joy Abraham (KC-M), Meghraj Jain (BJP), Renuka Chowdhury and Rajni Patil (both Cong), Kiranmay Nanda (SP), Basawaraj Patil (BJP), Narendra Budania (Cong), Ajay Sancheti and Ramakrishna (both BJP), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa (SAD), K Keshav Rao (TRS), Anu Aga (nominated), CPI(M)’s T K Rangarajan and A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK).

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.