As the government moves to inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28, 19 opposition parties have decided to boycott the event. These include the AAP, Congress, and TMC.
Background Information on the Parliament Building
The old Parliament Building of India was built in 1927 by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Barker as part of the Central Vista area. It is located 750 meters from the Presidential Palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan) and has served the Imperial Legislative Council, Constituent Assembly, and then both houses of the Indian Parliament.
Old Parliament Building, Image Source: Times of India
However, the issue of space has always been present, even after two floors were added to the building in 1956. Similarly, questions about its structural integrity were also raised. This led to the demand for a new parliament building in 2010.
Central Vista Redevelopment Project
In 2019, the Modi government announced the Central Vista Redevelopment Project in order to redesign the Central Vista area. This includes revamping the Kartavya Path, a new Central Secretariat, a new Parliament, and new residences for the President and Prime Minister.
The contract for this project was awarded to the Tata Group at 862 crore rupees for the New Parliament and 477 crore rupees for the Central Vista Avenue renovations.
This project was started with the laying of the foundation stone of the New Parliament building in December 2020. The new building is expected to have a lifespan of 150 years or more.
It has expanded seating for the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha in order to accommodate more people after future delimitation exercises. It has 888 seats in the Lok Sabha chamber and 384 seats in the Rajya Sabha chamber. The remaining part of the building has four floors for ministries and offices.
However, many opposition parties opposed this move, stating that it was unnecessary to spend 20,000 crores during the pandemic and that they did not have all the necessary approvals. The government responded by issuing a point-by-point rebuttal of these claims, including specifying the entire cost of the project.
The inauguration ceremony is set for May 28th, with the Lok Sabha Speaker inviting PM Narendra Modi to inaugurate the building.
New Parliament Building, Image Source: Indian Express
Boycott of the Inauguration Ceremony
19 opposition parties, including the Congress, SP, CPI, CPI (M), RJD, JD (U), TMC, DMK, and more, have decided to boycott this event. Some have criticised the date for being set on the birth anniversary of Hindutva thinker V.D. Savarkar.
Others believe that constitutionally, the President, Draupadi Murmu, should do the inauguration, and by doing the inauguration himself, PM Modi is making a political move.
Responses and reactions
The opposition parties issued a statement saying,
“Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new parliament building by himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy. This undignified act insults the high office of the president and violates the letter and spirit of the constitution. It undermines the spirit of inclusion, which saw the nation celebrate its first woman Adivasi president. ” Undemocratic acts are not new to the Prime Minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out the Parliament. Opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended, and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India. When the soul of democracy has been sucked out of the parliament, we find no value in a new building.”
On the other hand, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Hardeep Singh Puri, accused the Congress of lacking national pride and spirit.
While the construction of a new Parliament Building was long overdue, not inviting the President raises serious questions on the powers of the PM and President and on constitutional values and tradition.