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India’s opposition to boycotting Modi’s inauguration of new parliament

New Delhi, India – On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a new parliament building in the capital New Delhi, a move that has prompted at least 19 opposition parties to announce plans to boycott the event.

In a joint statement, the national and regional parties said on Wednesday that Indian President Droupadi Murmu should open the new parliament and accused Modi of sidelining the country’s first tribal head of state.

The President of India is a non-partisan, indirectly elected executive with only ceremonial powers, but is considered the country’s first citizen and is the highest constitutional authority.

“Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new parliament building himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct attack on our democracy that demands a commensurate response,” said the statement issued by the opposition parties.

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

Modi congratulating Murmu after she was elected the country’s first female tribal chairperson in July last year (File: India Office of Press Information/Handout via Reuters)

Congress party spokesman Supriya Shrinate told Al Jazeera that Modi does not have “the moral right” to inaugurate parliament because “he is killing democracy every day.”

“Mr Modi is making it all about himself. When he laid the cornerstone, former President Ram Nath Kovind was not invited. Now for the inauguration again, President Murmu has been pushed aside,” he said.

“She (Murmu) is the guardian of the constitution, she is the first tribal woman president of the country and not inviting her to the inauguration is really shameful and this is the worst insult that can be done to a tribal woman who stood up. to become president,” Shrinate said, adding that “history will remember” her protest at her inauguration.

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India’s national emblem was installed on top of the new parliament building (File: Rajat Gupta/EPA)

‘Obsession with self image’

Opposing Modi’s decision, D Raja, a senior leader of the Communist Party of India, wrote on Twitter that the Indian prime minister is an executive body of the state while the parliament is the legislative body.

“The obsession with self-image and cameras trumps decency and norms when it comes to Modi ji,” Raja wrote. “Ji” is a common honorific in the Hindi language.

Shehzad Poonawalla, spokesman for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), argued that the inauguration of a new parliament is “an issue of common importance” and accused opposition parties of politicizing the opening.

“While the temple of democracy will be inaugurated on (May) 28, the mother of hypocrisy, Congress, is trying to create excuses to paralyze it. Congressional leaders themselves had pushed for a new building in the past, but today they label it ‘vanity,’” she told Al Jazeera.

The All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), another opposition party that opposes Modi opening the new parliament, said the Lok Sabha president or the Rajya Sabha president should do so.

“There are bigger needs that the nation has and they go beyond the buildings for parliamentarians. In the last 10 years, the country has aged poorly. We need resources for the poor. Buildings don’t fill empty stomachs, grains do,” Syed Asim Waqar, a spokesman for AIMIM, told Al Jazeera.

The new parliament building, part of a $2.8 billion redevelopment of British-era offices and residences in central New Delhi, will open two days after the Modi government completes nine years in power and before crucial general election Due in May of next year.

The “Central Vista” project, as the British-era redevelopment of the capital is officially known, includes the new $120 million parliament, residences for the prime minister and vice president, and 10 blocks of buildings to house government ministries and departments.

In December 2020, Modi sat down the foundations of the new parliament, which is said to have a larger seating capacity of 888 members in the lower house, called the Lok Sabha, compared to the current strength of 545, and 384 in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, compared to 250 now .

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A statue of Mahatma Gandhi sits in the foreground of the current parliament while giant cranes to construct the new buildings are seen in the background (File: Manish Swarup/AP)

Construction of the buildings amid the deadly COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread criticismespecially during the brutal second wave in the summer of 2021. The WHO estimates that a total of 531,843 people have died in India since the pandemic began in January 2020.

Congressional Sanctuary said the bill was launched and prioritized over the suffering of people and the loss of life and livelihoods during the pandemic.

The Central Vista project was also criticized for being inconsistent with government environmental policies and raised concerns about the damage the project would cause to heritage buildings in the Raisina Hill area of ​​New Delhi.

Ishwar Marandi, a professor of political science at Sido Kanhu Murmu University in the Jharkhand state city of Dumka, recalled the day Murmu was sworn in as president.

Marandi, who belongs to the same Santal tribe as Murmu, said the community felt empowered by one of its members who held the highest constitutional position in the government.

“But now we see that she is nowhere, uninvited, shaking up the community,” he told Al Jazeera.

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