Congress and the row over new Parliament building opening
By G Krishna Mohan Rao*
New Delhi: It was a day after the Congress Party’s announcement of a boycott of the new Parliament building inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28, 2023, that as many as 19 opposition parties decided to support the Congress’s call. While announcing the boycott, the 19 political parties issued a joint statement today where they raised objection to Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new parliament building by himself, completely side-lining President Draupadi Murmu.
The Aam Aadmi Party said that it is ‘’upset” the Parliament building is not being inaugurated by the President. While opposing the move, the Trinamul Congress observed that it should have been done on either Independence Day or Republic Day or on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. It should not have been done on the birth anniversary of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader V D Savarkar, it said. The Janata Dal (United) said that the opposition parties have been kept in the dark about what will happen to the old Parliament building. The government is maintaining a stoic silence on it.
After today’s development, the Congress Party expressed satisfaction with the response from opposition parties on the idea of boycotting the event.
Also read: 19 political parties to boycott new Parliament building’s inauguration
In other words, the tussle over the inauguration of the new Parliament building has reached a new peak with both sides offering lessons in Constitution to each other. Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said that Articles 60 and 111 of the Constitution of India make it clear that the President is head of the Parliament and Parliament means —President, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Hence, President should inaugurate the new building. However, the government accused the Congress of ‘misquoting’ Articles from the Constitution to justify their stand on why the President should inaugurate.
The Congress while accusing that the office of the President of India is reduced to tokenism under the Bharatiya Janata Party-RSS government, argued that President alone represents the government, the opposition and every citizen alike. She is the first citizen of India and the inauguration of the new parliament by her will symbolise the government’s vow to democratic values and Constitutional propriety. The Congress further argued that Parliament is not just a new building; it is an establishment with old traditions, values, precedents and rules—it is the foundation of Indian democracy.
The ruling BJP, on the other hand, cited several reasons in the past when Congress leaders inaugurated buildings on the Parliament premises, to drive home their point that the Prime Minister inaugurating the new building was not the first time. Taking a dig at Congress, the BJP said that its leaders should feel better if they remember October 24, 1975– the day when Indira Gandhi inaugurated the Parliament Annexe. Or August 15, 1987, when Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of the Parliament Library. So , the Congress Party’s accusation that the government is disrespecting Constitutional propriety is not correct.
The BJP further said that President Murmu herself wanted that the new building should be inaugurated by the Prime Minister in the spirit of democracy as he represents the country’s popular mandate. Sources said that President Murmu was “approached” for the inauguration. However, she suggested that it would be appropriate if the new Parliament is inaugurated by the Prime Minister”.
The BJP alleged that Congress is resorting to cheap politics even as the country is about to witness the inauguration of a new Parliament structure which stands as an epitome of Indian democracy and a reflection of the spirit of ‘ Make in India’. The ruling party’s chief spokesman, Anil Baluni, while maintaining that they never crossed any line drawn by the Constitution in terms of PM leading the inauguration ceremony, said that the remarks made by the Congress leaders reflect their negative and defeatist mentality. “Congress as usual is playing spoilsport …they have been rejected by the people of the country and such comments are reflection of their frustration,” he said.
It may be recalled that as per Constitutional provisions, by the year 2026, delimitation of the constituencies of the Lok Sabha and also Rajya Sabha should be done and increase the numbers in both Houses. In the new Parliament building, as many as 888 members in the Lok Sabha and 384 members in the Rajya Sabha can sit together, whereas, in the old Parliament building, there was a provision for 543 MPs in the Lok Sabha and 250 in the Rajya Sabha.