New Delhi, May 25 (EFE).- India’s government and opposition fired more jabs Thursday amid escalating controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s planned opening of the new parliament building, sidelining the president, the highest constitutional authority.
At least 19 opposition parties have chosen to boycott the event on May 28, accusing Modi of weakening India’s democratic and constitutional foundations by disrespecting the country’s first tribal head of state, Draupadi Murmu.
India’s president, considered the country’s first citizen, is elected indirectly and holds a non-party position with only ceremonial powers.
Opposition Congress party spokesperson Supriya Shrinate defended the call to boycott the event, as ignoring the president was “a grave insult and an assault on democracy.”
“It is not a boycott for the sake of boycott. The constitutional definition of parliament is the president, the Rajya Sabha (upper house), and the Lok Sabha (lower house),” Shrinate said in a Twitter video message.
“It is constitutionally wrong and gravely insulting to deny the president her right to inaugurate the (new) parliament (building),” she said.
“The president is the custodian of our constitution. Only the president has the authority to call Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha sessions and prorogue parliament.”
The government lashed out at the opposition, calling the boycott calls “petty politics.”
Federal Minister of State for Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar said the opposition parties were trying to shift the narrative away from celebrating India’s success story.
“They don’t want any celebration, any focus or any spotlight on any of the achievements and progress that this government is making and this country is making and the Indians are making,” Chandrasekhar said.
“Why should any responsible MP, anybody who cares for Indian democracy boycott the inauguration of the building that is a symbol of our democracy? What is the logic? There is no logic. It is petty politics of the worst kind.”
Modi ordered the construction of the new parliament building at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic when the country was under lockdown in 2020.
The $2.7-billion Central Vista project, mired in controversy since its inception, is to redesign the former center of British colonial power between the presidential palace and the India Gate, two of the most famous monuments of the national capital city.
The current parliament complex was built in 1927 during the British era.
Modi laid the project foundation in New Delhi in an act loaded with symbolism, trying to show the end of any reminiscence of the British colonial era.
The new parliamentary building will have the capacity for 888 Lok Sabha and 300 Rajya Sabha members. EFE