New Delhi: Congress MP and former party chief Sonia Gandhi on Monday thumped her desk as President Ram Nath Kovind ended his maiden address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament.
Sonia was seated in the front row alongside BJP patriarch LK Advani, who had former PM Manmohan Singh seated on the other side. Ahead of occupying their seats, Advani greeted the former Congress chief.
The two were also seen talking after the function, as the Congress leader thumped the desk after the President ended his address.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also greeted Sonia and so did union minister Ramdas Athawale.
On the other hand, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, whose party had fumed over his seating arrangement in the sixth row at the Republic Day Parade, on Monday got a front row seat in the Central Hall of Parliament.
He was seen was seen talking to his mother Sonia and party leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, union ministers, BJP president Amit Shah, Rahul and Sonia were among those present in the Central Hall when President Kovind delivered his speech.
Among other Opposition leaders seated in the front row were Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was seated next to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Shah, who became a member of the Rajya Sabha only recently, also occupied a front seat along with Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Seated along with them were Swaraj and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Another highlight of the joint sitting of Budget Session was President Ram Nath Kovind shaking hands with all those seated in the front row of the Central Hall after completing his address and coming down from the dais. While he shook hands with all the male members, he greeted the women members with folded hands.
Meanwhile, President Kovind on Monday strongly pitched for simultaneous elections to Parliament and the state assemblies, saying frequent polls posed a "huge burden" on resources and impeded the development process.
Among other things, he also referred to several initiatives taken by the government for the benefit of the people, including projects to provide housing, uninterrupted power supply and LPG connections to the poor.
At the same time, the President expressed hope that the bill to ban instant triple talaq will soon become a law and the Muslim women can lead a life of dignity and a life of self-respect with courage.
On triple talaq, he said, "I hope that the Parliament will soon pass it into a law," he said.
The President added that the government was "committed to 'empowerment and not appeasement'" of the minorities by making intensive efforts for their economic, social and educational empowerment.
(With PTI inputs)