Amid all the noise over who should or should not inaugurate the new parliament building, a look into recent history will show that past heads of central and state governments have unveiled legislature house complexes in different states. At some of these events, the then prime minister was present along with chief ministers of the states but the president was not invited.
But the opposition parties have decided to boycott the inauguration ceremony of the new parliament building on May 28 amid a war of words with the central government that President Droupadi Murmu should inaugurate the new building and not Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In an instance from 2011, the then PM Manmohan Singh inaugurated new buildings at Imphal, including the new assembly complex and city convention centre. According to a report published by NDTV, he was accompanied by then UPA chairperson and MP Sonia Gandhi.
In 2010, Manmohan Singh inaugurated the world’s first ‘green’ legislature building – the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly complex. He was once again accompanied by Sonia Gandhi, while then CM M Karunanidhi was also present.
Most recently, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar inaugurated the central hall at the legislative assembly in February 2019. At the event, Kumar had spoken about the concept of federalism, saying it had not been fully implemented in the country so far.
“The Centre and the states – both have been given certain rights. While special provisions have been made for autonomy of states, the Centre – at the same time – has been given certain responsibilities… The concept of federalism should be fully implemented,” he had said, while speaking on the ‘Role of legislature in Indian Constitution’, as per a report published in Times of India.
The report said a large number of former legislators had also turned up for the inauguration of the iconic central hall, which the chief minister said had been built on the very pattern of the parliament’s central hall. Now, both the Congress and the Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) are part of the boycott of the inauguration of the new parliament building.
According to media reports, it was then PM Indira Gandhi, who inaugurated the parliament annexe on October 24, 1975. On August 15, 1987, then PM Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of the parliament library. The president was not invited to both these events.
Turning back the pages of history, it will also be interesting to take a look at the inauguration of the old parliament building by Viceroy Lord Irwin on January 18, 1927. According to newspaper reports from back then, leaders of different political parties such as Congress and Swaraj Party, including Motilal Nehru, attended the inauguration ceremony. Rulers of princely states also attended the inauguration ceremony.
A total of 19 opposition parties have decided to boycott the inauguration of the new parliament building by the prime minister. On Wednesday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said the parliament was not built by “bricks of ego” but through constitutional values. The senior Congress leader said not letting President Murmu inaugurate the new building as well as not inviting her to the ceremony was an “insult” to the country’s highest constitutional post. Several Congress leaders also slammed the government over the inauguration.
The opposition parties said in a joint statement, “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.”
But, they said, Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new building all 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”.
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, as per a report published by news agency PTI.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, JD(U), 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.