Parliament building inauguration: 19 opposition parties to boycott ceremony

New Delhi,: As many as 19 parties, including the Congress, Left, TMC, SP and AAP, on Wednesday announced their decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 28, saying they find no value in a new building when the “soul of democracy has been sucked out”.

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

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

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

“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.

Attacking Modi, the parties said,”Undemocratic acts are not new to the prime minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out Parliament. Opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India. 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 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.

The parties have also come together amidst efforts by opposition leaders to forge a united front to take on the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

While the BSP has not made its stand clear on whether it will attend, its MP Danish Ali called for opposition unity. Shiromani Akali Dal, however, said they will attend the new Parliament inauguration function.

The TDP, BJD, AIADMK and YSRCP have also not made their stand clear yet but are likely to be present at the inauguration.

BRS, however, said it will announce its decision on Thursday.

AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said if Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla does not inaugurate the new Parliament building, his party would not attend.

The decision by the opposition parties to boycott came amid a war of words on the matter between the government and the opposition, which has been demanding that the president should inaugurate the new Parliament building and not the prime minister.

Asked about the opposition decision, Home Minister Amit Shah did not respond and said the government has extended the invitation to all political parties  and they will respond as per their wisdom.

He also said the event in which ‘Sengol’, a historical sceptre from Tamil Nadu, which was received by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to represent the transfer of power from the British and will be installed in the new Parliament building, should not be linked with politics.

“The government of India has invited everyone to be present at the inauguration. Everyone will act as per their wisdom,” he said at a press conference when asked about the boycott call.

Noting that ‘Sengol’ can’t be associated with politics, he said, “This is the real purpose. Don’t mix this with politics. This is an old tradition that is going to be connected with the new India. Politics has its own place. Everyone works as per their wisdom.” Parliamentary Affairs minister Pralhad Joshi termed the opposition move as “unfortunate” and urged them to reconsider their stand.

“Boycotting and making an issue out of a non-issue is most unfortunate. I appeal to them to reconsider their decision and join the function,” Joshi said.

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

“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.

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 the MPs, for whom it is apparently being built, the parties claimed.   The opposition parties said Article 79 of the Constitution states, “there shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People.” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said,”Neither getting the President to inaugurate the Parliament nor inviting her to the ceremony is an insult to the country’s highest constitutional post.” “Parliament is not made of bricks of ego, but of constitutional values,” he said in a tweet in Hindi.

AICC general secretary Jairam Ramesh also said, “The ‘shehnai’ of ‘democracy’ should be played in the Parliament, but ever since the self-proclaimed Vishwaguru has arrived, authoritarianism is ruling the roost.” “Change the intention, not the building,” he noted on Twitter.

The Congress said the prime minister’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building is a “direct attack” on democracy.

“Completely sidelining President Droupadi Murmu ji on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Parliament House is not only an insult to Her Excellency but also a direct attack on democracy,” the Congress said in a tweet in Hindi.

“When the very spirit of democracy has been expelled from Parliament, we see no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building,” it said.

TMC MP Mohua Moitra said the President of India is Number 1 in the warrant of precedence, and the Prime Minister is 3rd after the Vice President of India.

“Government ignorant about constitutional niceties. This is not Modiji’s ‘Griha Pravesh’ for a house that he built with his own money,” she said in a tweet.

RJD spokesperson Manoj Jha said President Murmu should have inaugurated it as this would be in line with constitutional propriety.

“However, the prime minister made a choice. He does not listen to others,” Jha said.

The opposition parties had earlier 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.

The grand opening of the new building, it is learned, 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, the Lok Sabha Speaker will be present at the opening ceremony.