AS PRIME Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building, which is the showpiece of the Government’s Central Vista redevelopment project, Opposition parties stayed away from the event while questioning its timing amid protests by farmers, the pandemic and economic distress.
Among those who were invited but chose to skip the event were Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. While Chowdhury was in his constituency in West Bengal, Azad told The Indian Express that he could not attend because of concerns over the Covid spread.
Many Opposition leaders said there was a broad consensus on not attending the event although there was no specific decision or announcement. However, representatives of some non-BJP parties, including BJD, AIADMK and YSR Congress, attended the ceremony apart from NDA ally Chirag Paswan of LJP.
“At this time, when the economy is gasping because of the pandemic, the timing reflects misplaced priorities. What we need is not a building or a structure…the spirit of Parliamentary democracy must be kept fully intact and not be violated. The institutions, their functioning and sanctity, should not be undermined,” Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, told The Indian Express.
“For instance, the way the Farm laws were passed…they were not referred to the standing committees. Legislative scrutiny was completely bypassed,” Sharma said, adding that farmers are protesting in the “cold” and events like this show “utter insensitivity”.
“The foundation for a new Parliament building was laid on the ruins of a liberal democracy,” senior Congress leader P Chidambaram posted on Twitter.
Trinamool Congress Parliamentary party leader Derek O’Brien targeted the Prime Minister and criticised “another photo opportunity…while the real heroes of our country, farmers, are spending wintery nights in protest for their lives and livelihood”.
DMK Rajya Sabha MP T K S Elangovan, who was in Delhi but did not attend the event, said “this is not the right time for such an event”.
CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury described the event as a “colossal waste of resources”. “The head of Parliament is the President. He was not there. The Vice President, who is the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, was not there. None of the Opposition leaders were there. And, moreover, doing it at this time when people require a lot of resources for survival is a colossal waste of resources. There is no clarity on the vaccine, jobs are being lost and farmers are on the streets. Is this the priority at this time?” Yechury told The Indian Express.
However, BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab told The Indian Express that he is “proud to be a witness to this historic occasion”. The AIADMK was represented by three MPs, including its Rajya Sabha leader A Navaneethakrishnan, and Tamil Maanila Congress (Moopanar) by Rajya Sabha MP G K Vasan.
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