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House gears up for big day

Barack Obama will be the fourth US President to address Indian MPs in the historic central hall of Parliament, but the House will see a number of firsts during the event.

delhi Updated: Nov 07, 2010 23:40 IST
Nagendar Sharma

Barack Obama will be the fourth US President to address Indian MPs in the historic central hall of Parliament, but the House will see a number of firsts during the event.

The central hall has been given a new look for the event on Monday evening.

A new visitors’ book will be placed in the hall next to the Speaker’s podium.

Obama will be the first dignitary to sign the new book, draped in traditional khadi silk with a golden emblem of Parliament.

“It has been placed in the central hall since Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar wanted to make a new beginning for President Obama,” said a senior official.

The visitors’ book that was being used will become part of the Parliament archives. The Speaker wants the new version to be showcased during visits of important heads of state.

Another thing making its debut in the central hall is the teleprompter, a device that allows the speaker to read out a speech without letting the world know it is not being delivered extempore.

US officials have brought the device with them. Indian Parliament officials said they were not familiar with the device, which has never been used in the central hall or either House.

Three of Obama’s predecessors — Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, Jimmy Carter in 1978 and Bill Clinton in 2000 — were given the rare honour of addressing the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha MPs.

Before Obama, former Russian President Vladimir Putin and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed Indian MPs in 2007. Putin went on to become the Prime Minister of his country in 2008.

A dress rehearsal for Monday’s event was carried out on Saturday evening. It included a mock drill from the Parliament gate till the central hall entrance.

Obama is expected to speak for about 20 minutes. The event will begin start with the welcome address from Vice-President Hamid Ansari and be concluded by Speaker Meira Kumar.