Wednesday, May 31, 2023

New Parliament building inauguration debate unites Opposition

Shivaji Sarkar

Battle royal begins for Lok Sabha elections 2024. over the new building for Parliament. Combined opposition led by the Congress has decided to boycott the inauguration of the new building of Parliament on May 28 and even may consider abandoning of the new building.
It has brought virtually entire opposition on one platform. Releasing the Joint Statement of Like-Minded Opposition Parties, Sanjay Rout, Shiv Sena (UBT) MP said, “All opposition parties have decided to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building on May 28 and we will also do the same,” said Raut. The statement has name of the Congress and 18 other parties.
It paves the way for most non-BJP parties coming together on a common issue of not maintaining propriety and parliamentary tradition of the protocol precedence of President of India. The joint opposition has said the President could not be ignored and prime minister cannot take the precedence in matters of Parliament. It is possible that the entire opposition would meet in Delhi to decide the course of action for the elections to 2024, just a year ahead. The coming together of the Opposition would force BJP to have new strategies to adopt and throw challenges to keep the rivals at bay. The Indian politics is warming for an intense year-long electoral battle and polarisation of votes.
If the boycott extends to the new building itself as some parties expressed so, it can lead to almost a direct clash between the ruling party and the opposition conglomerate. It is unprecedented in the history of Indian democracy.
It is to be seen if it smoothens up the internal contradictions of the opposition as also how it would share the seats in each of the states. Though AAP is part of the combine it is yet not clear how it would stay together with Congress.
At present Lok Sabha has 543 members and Rajya Sabha 250. There is no Central Hall in the new building. Joint sessions would be held in the Lok Sabha chamber. It is likely from 2026 as per a 2020 announcement.
This is to allow representation in tune with the rising population. It is being questioned by the opposition as if this formula is followed northern India would have more representation and the South India would lose many seats., because of population imbalance. Since population has receded in the South, it will lose proportional representation. The North East is likely to have minimum rise. The opposition says Parliament cannot work on hypotheses. Congress is also questioning which census to be the basis for the new representation formula. Last census was in 2011. No census for 2021 could be conducted for the covid19 lockdown. No arbitrary decision on such sensitive issues could be imposed.
There is strong concern. An emerging view is that the number of Lok Sabha seats should be frozen at the present level and there was little need to increase the numbers as it would be unwieldy, cumbersome and impractical. Apart the cost of parliamentary operations to grow manifold and functioning of the House itself would face critical problems.
The present building of the Parliament was completed in 1927, and is now going to be almost 100 years old. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha passed resolutions for a new building for the Parliament. Consequently, on 10 December 2020, the foundation stone of the new building of Parliament was laid by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.
A large section of parliamentarians still believes that the parliamentary functioning should continue from the iconic present Parliament House. The new building could be used for flunky conferences and other uses.
In a joint communique on Wednesday, 19 parties led by Congress have stated that they would boycott the inauguration as against the protocol it is not being done by the President Draupadi Murmu, as is the convention, said Sanjay Raut.
“The inauguration of a new Parliament building is a momentous occasion. Despite our belief that the government is threatening democracy, we were open to sinking our differences and marking this occasion,” the statement read.
The joint statement said: “Undemocratic acts are not new to the Prime Minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out the Parliament. Opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India.”
The statement adds MPs from the Treasury benches have disrupted Parliament. Many controversial legislations, including the three farm laws, have been passed with almost no debate, and Parliamentary Committees have been practically made defunct. 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, the opposition parties said.
“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,” the statement added.
RJD Rajya Sabha MP Manoj Jha said that there is a need for course correction with the entire Parliament Building inauguration. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav added “We will boycott this,” said Tejashwi Yadav.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury accused PM Modi of “bypassing” the President when stone was laid. “Now too at the inauguration. Unacceptable”.
TMC MP Derek O’Brien took to Twitter to announce the party’s decision. “Parliament is not just a new building; it is an establishment with traditions, values, precedents and rules – it is the foundation of Indian democracy. PM Modi doesn’t get that For him, Sunday’s inauguration of the new building is all about I, ME, MYSELF. So count us out.” TMC MP Mahua Moitra tweeted “President of India is number 1, vice president is no 2 and PM is third. This is not Modiji’s grihapravesh that he built with his own money. Not attending May 28 party.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla will dedicate to the nation the new Parliament building on May 28. Invitations have been sent in both physical and digital forms to the MPs of both Houses.
The statement includes the names of the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Shiv Sena (UBT)CPI-M, CPI, Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, National Conference, Kerala Congress (mani) Revolutionary Socialist Party, Vidhuthalalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, MDMK, Indian Union Muslim League, and Rashtriya Lok Dal.

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