The inauguration of the new Parliament Building of India on May 28 has raised a political row between the Ruling BJP and the opposition parties. Nineteen Opposition parties led by the Congress announced their decision to boycott the inauguration. They stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to inaugurate it himself and “completely side-lining” President Droupadi insults the high office of the President and violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
The political highlight is that Modi will inaugurate the building on May 28, which also happens to be the birth anniversary of Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar.
WHICH ARE THE OPPOSIING PARTIES?
Janata Dal (United)
Aam Aadmi Party
Nationalist Congress Party
Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray),
Communist Party of India (Marxist),
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD),
Communist Party of India (CPI),
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)
Kerala Congress (M),
Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP),
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK),
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK),
Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
WHAT THE OPPOSITION SAID?
“The inauguration of a new Parliament building is a momentous occasion. Despite our belief that the government is threatening democracy, and our disapproval of the autocratic manner in which the new Parliament was built, we were open to sinking our differences and marking this occasion. However, Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building by himself, completely side-lining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy which demands a commensurate response,” the political parties said in a joint statement.
They said that Article 79 of the Constitution of India states, “There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People.”
“The President is not only the Head of State in India, but also an integral part of the Parliament. She summons, prorogues, and addresses the Parliament. She must assent for an Act of Parliament to take effect. In short, the Parliament cannot function without the President. Yet, the Prime Minister has decided to inaugurate the new Parliament building without her. 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,” the statement read.
The parties said, “Undemocratic acts are not new to the Prime Minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out the Parliament”.
They also pointed out that opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India. Many controversial legislations, including the three farm laws, have been passed with almost no debate, and Parliamentary Committees have been practically made defunct, they added.
HOW THE BJP DEFENDED?
Coming down heavily on the opposition, the BJP said that it is a matter of pride and honour for the country and that the new parliament building reflects the aspirations of a self-reliant India. They also defended the choice of date.
Terming the opposition decision as unfortunate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi urged them to reconsider their stand. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the new parliament building was a symbol of India’s democracy. It was unfortunate that some people were trying to politicise it. The new parliament building is not about any individual or party, he said. “It is about our democracy, our constitution and our people,” he said.
Party spokesperson Anil Baluni accused the Congress of indulging in cheap politics and creating an unnecessary row over the opening of the new parliament building. He said, “Whenever a good thing happens, Congress leaders resort to cheap politics which has become its hallmark under Rahul Gandhi.”
BJP leader Gaurav Bhatia said that Rahul Gandhi was “a bad omen during auspicious times” who could not welcome the “historic moment”. He said
NEW PARLIAMENT BUILDING
The new Indian parliament building is a part of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project. The new building is located opposite the existing colonial-era parliament building. HCP Design, Planning and Management designed the new building and Tata Projects constructed it. The building has a circular shape and a triangular interior, inspired by the Indian symbols of chakra and lotus. It has increased seating capacity for 888 members in the lower house and 300 members in the upper house, as compared to the current 543 and 250, respectively. It also has modern facilities such as digital interfaces, biometric access, energy-efficient systems and earthquake-resistant features.
The present Parliament House is a colonial-era building designed by British architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. It took six years to construct (1921-1927). Originally called the Council House, the building housed the Imperial Legislative Council. The Parliament building witnessed the addition of two floors in 1956 to address the demand for more space. In 2006, the Parliament Museum was added to showcase the 2,500 years of rich democratic heritage of India.
It is almost 100 years old and a Heritage Grade-I building. Over the years, the parliamentary activities and the number of people working therein and visitors have increased manifold.
WHAT WAS THE NEED FOR A NEW PARLIAMENT BUILDING?
The present Lok Sabha and Central Hall are full to their capacity and cannot be expanded any further. The Lok Sabha can seat a maximum of 552 persons. The Central Hall has capacity of 436 persons. However, at least 200 adhoc/ temporary seats are added in the aisles during joint sessions which is undignified and unsafe.
The offices for Ministers and facilities such as meeting rooms, dining facilities, pressroomsare inadequate, requiring makeshift arrangements that are not always comfortable or dignified.
Many additions and alterations have been made to this building over the years, in an ad-hoc manner that has severely damaged the building’s structure.
The building’s electrical, mechanical, air-conditioning, lighting, audio-visual, acoustic, public address system and security infrastructure is out of date. The 93-year-old building lacks proper documentation and drawings to establish its structural strength. Since intrusive tests to establish its structural strength can also not be carried out, since they would severely disrupt Parliament’s functioning, the building cannot be certified to be earthquake safe. This is of particular concern since the earthquake risk factor for Delhi has moved from Seismic Zone-II, at the time of construction of the building, to Seismic Zone-IV, likely to be upgraded to Zone-V