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Manmohan Singh leader of Rajya Sabha

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JUNE 4. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha member, will be the new leader of the House, while the former Union Minister, Jaswant Singh, will be the leader of Opposition.

This was announced here today by the Chairman, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, soon after the House met on the first day of its 201st session. In the last session, when the National Democratic Alliance was in power, Mr. Jaswant Singh was the leader of the House and Mr. Manmohan Singh the leader of the Opposition.

There was also a change in the seating arrangement. While the Congress-led United Progressive Front members occupied the treasury benches, the NDA-led members were seated in the Opposition rows. The Deputy Chairperson, Najma Heptullah, though a Congress member, was seated next to Mr. Jaswant Singh which is the seat allocated to her in her present position.

Later, the House adjourned for the day after making obituary references to sitting members Gurcharan Singh Tohra (Akali Dal) and Abrar Ahmad (Congress) and three former members, including Sikander Bakht (BJP), S.B. Chavan and Shrikant Jichkar (both Congress).

The House mourned the killing of 29 persons comprising 12 BSF personnel and 17 of their relatives and families in a blast near lower Munda, Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir on May 23. Five persons were injured in the incident. "No words are strong enough to condemn this gruesome act," Mr. Shekhawat said.

Referring with profound sorrow to the deaths of sitting and past members, Mr. Shekhawat said Mr. Tohra, who represented Punjab in the Rajya Sabha, died on April 1 at the age of 80. Mr. Abrar Ahmed, 48, died in a road accident on May 4. He was a social worker and educationist and was a former Union Minister of State.

Mr. Bakht died in February at the age of 86. An eminent parliamentarian and an able administrator, he was the Governor of Kerala from April 2002 till he passed away.

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