Stage set for inauguration of new Parliament building by PM on Sunday

New Delhi, May 24 (PTI) Nineteen opposition parties, including the Congress, Left and TMC, on Wednesday collectively announced their decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, terming it as an “undignified act” that insults the high office of the president.

In a joint statement, they said the inauguration of the Parliament building is a momentous occasion but 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 sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy which demands a commensurate response,” the opposition parties said.

The Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Janata Dal (United), AAP, CPI-M, CPI, SP, NCP, SS (UBT), RJD, IUML, JMM, NC, KC (M), RSP, VCK, MDMK, RLD are the signatories of the joint statement.

Modi will inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28 following an invitation by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

The opposition parties noted that the President is not only the Head of State in India, but also an integral part of Parliament as she summons, prorogues, and addresses Parliament.

“In short, 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 parties said.

They added that the new Parliament building has been built at great expense during a once-in-a-century pandemic with no consultation with the people of India or MPs, for whom it is apparently being built.

“When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the Parliament, we find no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building.

“We will continue to fight in letter, in spirit, and in substance against this ‘authoritarian’ prime minister and his government, and take our message directly to the people of India,” the opposition parties said in their joint statement.

The opposition parties had boycotted the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the building by Modi in December 2020, citing concerns about its timing amid farmer protests, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic distress due to a lockdown.

New Delhi: The TMC, the CPI and the AAP on Tuesday announced they will skip the inauguration ceremony of the new Parliament building on May 28 and more opposition parties including the Congress are likely to join them.

Amid demands from the opposition that the president should inaugurate the new building, leaders of like-minded opposition parties deliberated on the issue and a joint statement by the floor leaders on a united boycott of the event may be issued soon, sources said.

Announcing the party’s decision, TMC’s leader in Rajya Sabha Derek O’Brien wrote on Twitter, “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. Prime Minister Modi doesn’t get that. For him, Sunday’s inauguration of the new building is all about I, ME, MYSELF. So count us out.”

CPI general secretary D Raja also said his party will not attend the ceremony.

Aam Aadmi Party MP Sanjay Singh tweeted, “Not inviting President Droupadi Murmu to the inauguration of the new Parliament building is a great insult to her. This is also an insult to the tribals. The Aam Aadmi party will boycott the inauguration function in protest of Modi ji not inviting the President.”

The CPI-M also accused Modi of “bypassing” the President for not just laying the foundation stone for the new parliament building but also by inaugurating it himself

“Modi bypassed the President when the foundation stone for the new Parliament building was laid. Now too at the inauguration. Unacceptable. Constitution Art 79: ‘There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses

“Only when the President of India summons the Parliament can it meet. The President begins, annually, Parliamentary functioning by addressing the joint session. The first business Parliament transacts each year is the ‘Motion of Thanks’ to President’s Address,” party general secretary Sitaram Yechury said in a tweet.

Soon after the MPs started receiving soft copies of the invitation, they got into a huddle to discuss the issue.

The opposition sources indicated that most of the parties are of the view that they should unitedly skip the ceremony, and a final decision on the issue will be announced soon.

Sources said a joint statement by all the floor leaders of like minded parties will be issued soon to announce a united boycott of the event.

Meanwhile, political slugfest over the inauguration issue continued with Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri slamming the Congress for lacking “national spirit and sense of pride” in India’s progress and the opposition party accusing him of trying to “obfuscate and dissimulate”.

Addressing reporters, Puri said the then prime minister Indira Gandhi had inaugurated the Parliament Annexe building on October 24, 1975 and successor Rajiv Gandhi had laid the foundation of the parliament library on August 15, 1987.

“If your head of government can inaugurate Parliament annexe and library then why can’t the head of the government of this time do? It’s as simple as that,” he said.
Puri’s remarks came a day after the Congress accused the government of disrespecting constitutional propriety and demanded that President Droupadi Murmu inaugurate the new Parliament building, instead of Modi.

AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh said, “SUV-Self-Usurped Vishwaguru-has already annexe-d the Parliament for self-aggrandisement. But surely, there is a fundamental difference between inaugurating an Annexe where officials work and a library which is hardly used on the one hand, and inaugurating not just the Temple of Democracy but its sanctum sanctorum itself.”

Hitting back at Puri, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari alleged that the minister is trying to “obfuscate and dissimulate”.

“Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, I am afraid, is trying to obfuscate and dissimulate. There is a difference between an annexe to the Parliament, library and a new Parliament building,” he said in a tweet.

“By the way, Chairperson of the Council of States Vice President of India is also conspicuous by his absence on the invitation card,” he added.

Congress’ head of media and publicity department head Pawan Khera said on Twitter, “Hon’ble Minister needs to be told there’s a difference between Parliament Annexe and the Parliament. I hope he has been attending sessions in the right building and not the library or the Annexe.”

“Is this the level of intellect in Modi Ji’s cabinet or this is Bhakti Ki Shakti,” he asked.

Talking to reporters, Congress spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said, “One question for the government — why are you insulting the president who happens to be a woman from a humble background? Is it because she comes from a humble background? The president is the first citizen of the country and why are you not getting the new building of Parliament, which is called the pillar of democracy, inaugurated by her?

“This is because you want your name to be etched on its stones. You want to insult a woman and a tribal because there is no election in the state she comes from.”

“Whether we will boycott or attend, we will take a decision at the right time,” he added.

Modi will inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28 following an invitation by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.

On Monday, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge had raised objection to President Murmu not being invited for the inauguration of the new Parliament Building, saying the Parliament is the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India, and the President of India is its highest Constitutional authority.

“It looks like the Modi government has ensured the election of President of India from the dalit and the tribal communities only for electoral reasons,” he had also charged.

On Kharge’s remark, Congress leader Shahi Tharoor then tweeted, “Articles 60 and 111 of the Constitution make it clear that the President is the head of Parliament. It was bizarre enough that the PM performed the ground-breaking ceremony and puja when construction began, but totally incomprehensible and arguably unconstitutional for him and not the President to inaugurate the building.”

Puri earlier in the day also issued a series of tweets, alleging, “From criticising the new Parliament building and questioning its very necessity despite many of them advocating for it before but not executing it, Congress president and other worthies are now shifting the goalpost by generously misquoting an article a day from the Constitution.”

“After uncharitable comments about Hon’ble President in the past by its leaders, Congress president now makes uncalled for and gratuitous comments on her election. Tragic that Congress claiming to be a national party lacks any national spirit and sense of pride in India’s progress,” he added.

The minister further said, “They should feel better if they remember Oct 24, 1975 the day when Smt Indira Gandhi inaugurated the Parliament Annexe. Or, August 15, 1987 when Sh Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of the Parliament Library.

“So, instead of now finding articles to justify their hypocrisy, why can’t they just smile and join India on this momentous achievement & her march to greatness.”

NCP national spokesperson Clyde Crasto wondered if it was not the right of President Murmu to inaugurate the new Parliament building for her being the head of the country.

“Our Parliament is our temple of democracy and the Constitutional head of our country is our President,” he said, adding “Therefore is it not the right of our President to inaugurate the new Parliament House?”

The opposition parties had boycotted the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the building by Modi in December 2020, citing concerns about its timing amid farmer protests, the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic distress due to a lockdown.

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The grand opening of the new building, it is learnt, will be marked by the chanting of hymns, a “havan” and a “puja”. The rituals will start in the morning and the main programme is scheduled to be held in the afternoon.

Besides Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will be present at the opening ceremony.

The invitation card for the event states the ceremony will start at noon and requests the invitees to take their seats by 11.30 am.

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