New Delhi, May 24, 2023 – A total of 19 Indian opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress, announced on Wednesday their collective decision to boycott the upcoming inauguration of the new Parliament building in Delhi, slated for May 28.
The main point of contention is the decision by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate the building himself, sidelining President Droupadi Murmu in the process. The opposition argues that this move undermines the role of the President and violates the spirit of the Constitution.
The signatories of the joint statement include notable parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the DMK, the Janata Dal (United), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena, and others. They argue that the President, as the Head of State, is an integral part of the Parliament, and her exclusion from the inauguration represents a constitutional impropriety.
The opposition parties have also criticized the government’s choice of date for the inauguration, which coincides with the birth anniversary of Hindutva ideologue VD Savarkar. Congress MP Jairam Ramesh expressed that the chosen date was an “insult” to India’s founding fathers. Other opposition leaders echoed this sentiment, arguing that inaugurating the new Parliament building “on the birth anniversary of the man who opposed Mahatma Gandhi vehemently all his life” was inappropriate.
In response to the controversy, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi termed the boycott decision as “unfortunate”. He urged the opposition parties to reconsider their stand and join the function. He also pointed out that the Lok Sabha Speaker, as the custodian of Parliament, has extended an invitation to the Prime Minister, the head of government, to inaugurate the building.
However, the opposition remained resolute, arguing that the Prime Minister’s “undemocratic acts” were not new. The parties noted that opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended, and muted when they raised issues on behalf of the people of India. They also criticized the lack of consultation with the people of India or MPs in the construction of the new Parliament building during the pandemic.
In defense, the BJP dismissed the criticism as “chest-beating” by the Congress party. BJP spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia suggested that the new building was a matter of pride for Indians, a “historic moment” that should be welcomed by all.
The boycott of the inauguration is not the first time opposition parties have shown their dissent over the new Parliament building. In December 2020, several of these parties also skipped the foundation-laying ceremony for the building, expressing their discontent with the government’s handling of the project during the coronavirus pandemic.
As India prepares for the inauguration of the new Parliament building, this boycott underscores the deep political divides that persist in the nation. With both the government and the opposition standing firm on their views, it remains to be seen how this will impact the inauguration event and the functioning of the Parliament in the future.