Congress joins opposition boycott of new Parliament, as ‘the soul of democracy has been sucked out’

A joint statement of 19 opposition parties in India, including Congress, said today that all of them would boycott the opening of the new Parliament building, “because the soul of democracy has been sucked out” of parliamentary proceedings.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28. The new building can seat hundreds more Lok Sabha members than the capacity of the current building, which was built in 1927. Picture courtesy: ANI

Yesterday, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) had said that they would boycott the scheduled opening on May 28, to protest against the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would inaugurate the new building, and not President Droupadi Murmu. While physical and digital invites for the inauguration are going out, the opposition parties have alleged that President Murmu is not invited at all to the momentous event.

The joint statement issued today said: “Undemocratic acts are not new to the Prime Minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out the Parliament. Opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended, and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India.”

The statement added that MPs from the Treasury benches of Parliament — this refers to the seats on the right of the Speaker, occupied by ruling party ministers — often “disturbed Parliament”.

Bringing up the question of the new building’s cost — an estimated INR971 crore (approx USD117.5 million) — the opposition bloc criticised the Modi-led government for undertaking such a huge expenditure during the “once-in-a-century” pandemic without consulting the public. The foundation stone for the new Parliament building was laid by Modi in December 2020.

The new Parliament building is very spacious. It can seat 888 members in Lok Sabha, far more than the current capacity of 543.

The opposition alleged that even the MPs, for whom the new Parliament building was constructed, had not been consulted. However, both houses of Parliament had voted on a resolution on the building of a new Parliament, after which the foundation stone was laid.

All the same, the joint statement said, “When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the Parliament, we find no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building.”

Opposition leaders launched a scathing attack on the Modi government for allegedly ignoring President Murmu and ex-President Ram Nath Kovind (who was in office when the foundation stone was laid).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of the new building in December 2020. Picture courtesy: ANI

Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), tweeted: “Modi bypassed the President when the foundation stone for the new Parliament building was laid. Now too at the inauguration. Unacceptable. Constitution Art 79: ‘There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses…’”

TMC MP Derek O’Brien had earlier tweeted: “Parliament is not just a new building; it is an establishment with old traditions, values, precedents and rules — it is the foundation of Indian democracy. PM Modi doesn’t get that. For him, Sunday’s inauguration of the new building is all about I, ME, MYSELF. So count us out.”