BJP pushes back against Opposition’s boycott of new Parliament launch event

By, New Delhi
May 26, 2023 04:33 AM IST

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman led the charge, criticising 21 opposition parties that decided to withdraw from the inauguration of new Parliament.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday asked the Opposition to respect democracy and reverse its decision to boycott the opening of the new Parliament on May 28, deepening the political controversy looming over the inauguration of a building that will host India’s lawmakers later this year.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to make a veiled reference to the controversy in his remarks after returning from a three-nation visit.(ANI)
In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to make a veiled reference to the controversy in his remarks after returning from a three-nation visit.(ANI)

Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman led the charge, criticising 21 opposition parties that decided to withdraw from the ceremony over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to preside over the event instead of President Droupadi Murmu.

“Whether you like the Prime Minister or do not like to see him... Whatever it is, you have to respect the temple of democracy. ...it is not good to boycott the temple of democracy where we debate people’s issues. ...At least for the people, participate in the function,” Sitharaman told reporters in Chennai.

In Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to make a veiled reference to the controversy in his remarks after returning from a three-nation visit.

“It was the atmosphere of democracy that everyone joined in the Indian community’s programme. Not only the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, was in the audience, but also the country’s former PM and the entirety of the opposition who were together for the sake of their nation,” he said, referring to an event in Sydney. “Everyone accorded respect to the Indian representative, and it was not about Modi’s glory but about India’s strength, “ the PM added.

Read: '140 crore Indians won't forget…': NDA slams Oppn in Parliament inauguration row

His comments came a day after 21 opposition parties announced that they will boycott the inauguration. A joint statement by 19 parties — which together control 11 state governments and 230 seats in the Lok Sabha — said Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament was an “assault on democracy” and undermined the office of the President. Later, two more parties, the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), said they would also stay away from the event.

The controversy even reached the Supreme Court with a lawyer filing a public interest litigation in the apex court on Thursday, arguing that the Lok Sabha secretariat and the central government violated the Constitution by keeping Murmu out of the event.

The petition by advocate CR Jaya Sukin might be mentioned before the vacation bench for urgent hearing on Friday. “The respondents (Lok Sabha Secretariat and Union government) are try(ing) to humiliate the Indian President,” the petition added. It sought a direction to the Lok Sabha secretariat for inauguration of the new Parliament by Murmu.

Twenty five parties are expected to attend the inauguration, including 18 members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and seven other outfits – the Bahujan Samaj Party, Shiromani Akali Dal, Janata Dal (Secular), Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), YSR Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Telugu Desam Party. The presence of these seven parties is a boost for the government and may help blunt Opposition criticism.

The Opposition statement was signed by the Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Aam Aadmi Party, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United), Nationalist Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Indian Union Muslim League, National Conference, Communist Party of India, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Kerala Congress (Mani), Vidhuthalai Chirunthaigal Katchi, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Revolutionary Socialist Party, and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

The new Parliament was built over three years at a cost of 1,200 crore; it is aimed at providing a facelift and amenities not available at the iconic colonial-era building next door that served as India’s Parliament for 75 years after being opened in 1927. The ceremony will begin with an early morning ritual and a multi-religion prayer followed by the formal opening in the Lok Sabha chamber by Modi.

Read: Why is new Parliament building triangular-shaped? All features explained

Officials said the ritual havan will be held in the Parliament premises outside the new building around 7 am where the ceremonial sceptre, or Sengol, will be handed over to Modi by the high priests of the Shaivite order. The Sengol will be installed near the chair of the Speaker in the new Parliament.

The main function is likely to begin around noon in the presence of the PM, former vice president M Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, former PM HD Deve Gowda, Rajya Sabha deputy chairman Harivansh, among others.

The Opposition kept up its attack on the government. “Mr. Modi, Parliament is the temple of democracy established by the people. The office of the President is the first part of the Parliament. The arrogance of your government has destroyed the parliamentary system. 140 crore Indians want to know what do you want to express by taking away the right of the President of India to inaugurate the Parliament House?” tweeted Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge.

But the BJP hit back. “I would like to tell the Congress and other opposition leaders to please attend the event. Parliament is the crown of India’s democracy; the PM is also an important part of Parliament,” said senior leader Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Read | New Parliament inauguration: List of parties attending, boycotting the event

“For Congress colleagues, I would say that Modiji had said on August 15, 2014, that all PMs are equally remembered. The fame of all the PMs has been established in the PM Museum. Modiji is not there, this is the big thinking of PM Modi. It would be good if Congress expands its heart,” he added.

Besides the BJP, the 18 NDA members attending the event include the Shiv Sena, National People’s Party, Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, Jannayak Janata Party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, IMKMK , All Jharkhand Students Union, Republican Party of India, Mizo National Front, Tamil Maanila Congress, ITFT (Tripura), Bodo People’s Party, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Apna Dal and Assam Gana Parishad.

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