Nineteen opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and others have announced that will not participate in the inauguration event of the new Parliament building on May 28.
There are two main reasons for the Centre and Opposition parties to be at loggerheads over the inaugural. They demand that the President should inaugurate the new legislative building instead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and have taken an exception over the scheduled date, which coincides with the birthday of VD Savarkar.
Invitation sans President
The Secretary-General of Lok Sabha, Utpal Kumar Singh, sent an invitation to MPs from both houses of the Parliament, chief ministers of all states, and other notable personalities for the inauguration event. The invitation, however, does not mention the names of President or the Vice-President of India, which contradicts the order of precedence.
This has prompted the leaders of opposition parties to call for a boycott of the inaugural ceremony. As many as 19 political parties have issued a joint statement calling for the boycott.
Savarkar’s birth anniversary
The opposition leaders strongly oppose PM Modi taking precedence over President Draupadi Murmu and inaugurating the newly-built Parliament building. They have also expressed dismay over the Centre scheduling the event on May 28, which coincides with VD Savarkar’s birth anniversary. Savarkar was a major proponent of Hindutva who held extreme views about the idea of India.
Several leaders have asked why the Centre wouldn’t choose the birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ambedkar or Jawaharlal Nehru for the inauguration instead. Both of these leaders have made immense contributions to Indian parliamentary democracy.
Disregard for the ‘order of precedence’
The protocol suggests that the ‘order of precedence’ be followed on state and ceremonial occasions. Order of precedence is the hierarchy of prominent positions in the Republic of India recorded by rank and office. However, it does not have significant importance in the day-to-day affairs of the Government. The order is established by the President of India and maintained by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said, “The President should inaugurate the new Parliament House, not the Prime Minister. Not getting the President to inaugurate the Parliament nor invite 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.”
The opposition has also called out the Centre’s disregard for Article 79, which describes the Constitution of Parliament. It states that 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.
The Order of preference in the Republic of India
- Prime Minister
- Governors (within their respective states)
- Former Presidents
New Parliament at a glance
The newly-constructed Parliament has a larger seating capacity that can accommodate 770 people in Lok Sabha and 384 in Rajya Sabha at any given time. The Lok Sabha hall also has an additional capacity of 1,140 seats to host joint sessions.
The new building has been constructed near the existing Parliament at Sansad Marg. It features state-of-art technology like biometrics for easy voting process, programmable microphones, digital language interpretation, and recording infrastructure to produce real-time metadata with extra safety features. The construction of the new Parliament was completed within three years and five months at a cost of Rs 861.9 crore.
What several opposition leaders said
TMC leader Derek O’Brien said, “Parliament is not just a new building; it is an establishment of old traditions, values, precedents, and rules. It is the foundation of Indian democracy. Prime Minister Modi doesn’t get that. For him, Sunday’s inauguration of the new building is all about I, ME, MYSELF. So count us out.”
Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi asked, “If the President and the VP of India can be humiliated for PM’s glory by the Centre, why should the onus of protocol only be for the opposition parties?”
AAP leader Sanjay Singh said, “Not inviting Her Excellency President Draupadi Murmu ji to the inauguration ceremony of the Parliament House is a gross insult to her. This is an insult to the Dalits. Aam Aadmi Party will boycott the inauguration programme in protest against Modi ji not inviting the President,”
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said, “It was bizarre enough that the PM performed the ground-breaking ceremony & puja when construction began, but totally incomprehensible (& arguably unconstitutional) for him, and not the President, to inaugurate the building.”