New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday (May 28) morning inaugurated the new parliament building, even as 21 opposition parties boycotted the event at which he – and not President Droupadi Murmu – took centre stage.
In fact, President Murmu and Rajya Sabha chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar were not even present at the event on Sunday morning as they had not been invited. The Congress has alleged that the country’s two highest constitutional functionaries were left out as Modi wanted this to be his ‘event’ and see his own name on the plaque on the new parliament building.
Modi reportedly reached the parliament building at 7:30 am, after which he and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla conducted a puja. After the puja, the prime minister prostrated before the ‘sengol’ that was handed over to him by Adheenam seers, and he and Birla then installed the sceptre in the new parliament.
This sengol has created controversy with historians noting that the Modi government’s claims – that the sengol was a symbol of the British handing over power to independent India on August 15, 1947 – do not have evidentiary backing. “It is our good fortune that we have been able to restore the pride of the holy ‘Sengol’. Whenever proceedings start in this House the ‘Sengol’ will inspire us,” Modi said later in the day.
After the sengol was installed, Modi felicitated a group of construction workers who had been involved in building the new parliament.
This was followed by ‘sarv-dharma‘ (all faith) prayers by representatives from various religions.
— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) May 28, 2023
Modi also launched a new Rs 75 coin to commemorate the occasion.
Speaking at the inauguration on Sunday afternoon, the prime minister said this day will be “etched in history” because of the new building. “This is not just a Sansad Bhawan, but is a reflection of the aspirations and dreams of 140 crore people,” he claimed.
“Democracy is not just a system for us. It is a tradition, culture and part of our thoughts,” Modi continued.
While the Union government has been celebrating 75 years of independence all year, Modi claimed that it was only today that India was leaving behind a “colonial mindset”.
“From panchayat bhawan to Sansad bhawan, our inspiration is the development of our country and its people. Today, as we are proud of the construction of this new Parliament, it also gives me immense satisfaction when I think about the construction of homes for 4 crore poor people and 11 crore toilets in the country in the last 9 years,” the prime minister said.
“Every law passed in this Parliament will make India a developed country, and eliminate poverty in the next 25 years,” he continued.
Heavy security was deployed for the event on Sunday morning, with several roads in central Delhi closed for traffic and two metro stations – Udyog Bhavan and Central Secretariat – closed for entry and exit. Between 8,000-10,000 police personnel have been deployed in order to ensure that there was no disturbance in the inauguration ceremony, the Indian Express quoted special CP, law and order Dependra Pathak as saying.
The opposition has criticised Modi’s decision to put himself front and centre at the parliament inauguration, saying that as the head of the Indian state and as a prime element of parliament under Article 79 of the constitution, this responsibility should lie with the president.
The new parliament building is part of the Central Vista redevelopment project announced by the Modi government, which many conservationists and heritage experts have raised questions about.
Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule said that Sunday’s inauguration was an “incomplete event” with opposition parties’ participation, and showed that there is no democracy in the country.
— ANI (@ANI) May 28, 2023
Senior Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan took to Twitter to criticise the overwhelming presence of sadhus when the constitution of India envisages no role for them or other religious personalities:
As he prepares to inaugurate the new Parliament House (though Parliament hardly functions), with great fanfare with these ‘sadhus’ & religious ‘pontiffs’, (minus our President & Opp parties), Modi gives us a glimpse of the New India that he wants.
Our Constitution doesn’t permit… pic.twitter.com/FMUmiNUpmY
— Prashant Bhushan (@pbhushan1) May 28, 2023