In a two-part ceremony that lasted over five hours, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Parliament building on Sunday, with 21 Opposition parties boycotting the function and the police forcibly detaining women wrestlers as they tried marching to Parliament to demand justice, and evicting them from their protest site at Jantar Mantar.
In the morning session, Modi performed “Ganapathi Homam”, prostrated before the Sengol, which he later said symbolised not just the transfer of power but service and nationalism in the Chola empire, and carried the golden sceptre in a procession, accompanied by the tunes of “nadaswaram” and Vedic chants by priests from Karnataka’s Sringeri Math to the new Lok Sabha chamber.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Priests from various Adheenams, Shaivite monasteries in Tamil Nadu, blessed him before he installed it on the right side of the Speaker’s chair. The morning ceremony also featured a multi-faith prayer, after which the PM dedicated the 64,500 square foot building, constructed at Rs 864 crore, to the nation.
When he entered the House in the afternoon, the second leg of the inauguration ceremony, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs chanted his name, with the PM receiving a prolonged applause and a standing ovation from those gathered, which included former PM H D Deve Gowda, former president Ram Nath Kovind, heads of the defence forces, Union cabinet ministers, some chief ministers, senior members of the judiciary, and foreign dignitaries.
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In his half an hour speech, during which BJP MPs again chanted “Modi, Modi” as he proceeded to the podium, the PM described the new Parliament as a testament to the dawn of an “atmanirbhar Bharat”, a self-reliant India, a structure that is a symbol of the coexistence of tradition and modernity and will witness the journey towards a “vikasit Bharat”, developed India, by 2047. The PM said any expert analysing the nine-year tenure of the government would find “Nava Nirman”, laying a new foundation, and “Garib Kalyan”, the welfare of the underprivileged, as its leitmotifs, detailing the toilets for women, rural roads, village ponds and panchayat offices his government has constructed.
In his morning Mann ki Baat address, the PM paid tribute to freedom fighter and Hindutva ideologue V D ‘Veer’ Savarkar on his birth anniversary. In a tweet, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh suggested it was no coincidence that the government picked May 28 to inaugurate the new Parliament since Jawaharlal Nehru, “who did the most to nurture parliamentary democracy in India, was cremated on this day in 1964”, and Savarkar, “the person whose ideological ecosystem led to the killing of Mahatma Gandhi”, was born on this day in 1883.
Modi and Speaker Om Birla offered floral tributes to the Mahatma’s statue on the Parliament House premises in the morning. In his speech in the afternoon, the PM recalled Gandhi’s contribution to the freedom struggle, drawing a parallel between the 25 years from his non-cooperation movement to independence in 1947 and the quarter-century from now to the centenary of India’s independence in 2047.
The entire day the BJP and Opposition parties waged a social media war, with Opposition leaders questioning Modi’s alleged personification of the ceremony and tweeting photographs of police detaining wrestlers.
“Parliament is the voice of the people. The PM is treating the inauguration of the Parliament House as a coronation,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar said he was glad he didn’t attend the ceremony, and was concerned at what unfolded and that the country was regressing. Nearly 250 Opposition MPs boycotted the ceremony because President Droupadi Murmu was “not allowed to fulfil her constitutional duties and inaugurate the new Parliament” and, as the Congress said, a “self-glorifying authoritarian PM with utter disdain for parliamentary procedures, who rarely attends Parliament or engages in it” inaugurating the new Parliament.
In his speech, the PM said the construction of the building gave employment to 60,000 workers, some of whom he felicitated. A digital gallery dedicated to them has also been built, he said.
“In future, when the number of MPs increases, where would they sit? Therefore, the new Parliament building was the need of the hour,” he said.
The new building accommodates 888 members in the Lok Sabha and 384 in the Rajya Sabha, from the present 543 and 245 members, respectively.
Parliament of India
The PM said India’s national bird, the peacock, inspired the interior design of the Lok Sabha and its national flower, the lotus, of the Rajya Sabha.