Discord in the party over the new seat of the Indian Parliament

The world’s most populous country inaugurated a new seat of parliament on Sunday, one of the key projects implemented by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reshape India’s capital, but opposition parties criticized the move for democracy. Condemned for the “serious crime”.

Mr. Modi has been demanding the end of the vestiges of British rule for a long time. The new hexagonal building he wanted resembled the colonial-era building by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, which he would replace.

Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah in Calcutta, India, May 9, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Dibyangshu Sarkar)

The powerful Indian home minister, Amit Shah, a key figure in Mr Modi’s entourage, sees the new building as a symbol of “self-reliant India and a pole for the realization of the hopes and aspirations of all Indians”.

On the other hand, its critics bemoan that the project has been instrumented for partisan purposes, with Mr. Modi presiding over its inauguration on Sunday instead of state chief Draupadi Murmu.

– “The Tradition of Debate” –

The main opposition Congress and 19 other political parties announced a boycott of the ceremony on Wednesday.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera said, “History will not only remember you for creating a good deed, history will remember if you ensured that the soul of the place lives on. History will remember you for that, but also for the voices you make in Parliament.” suppresses.” ,

The current Indian Parliament in New Delhi, November 29, 2021 (AFP/Archive - Mani Sharma)
The current Indian Parliament in New Delhi, November 29, 2021 (AFP/Archive – Mani Sharma)

Everyone agrees that the current Parliament is cramped, that its facilities are out of date, that the number of offices and committee rooms is insufficient and that they need to be changed.

But the new headquarters, which is believed to cost around $145 million, is part of Mr Modi’s ambitious program to renovate or replace British-era government buildings, including the prime minister’s residence, in the center of New Delhi.

Dubbed “Central Vista,” the program quickly came under fire for lack of transparency, high costs, and alleged violations of local environmental and land laws.

The new lower house has been given 888 seats, suggesting that the authorities plan to increase the membership currently set at a maximum of 550.

Mr. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), could benefit from this: if the number of MPs were increased according to the 2011 census data, the north and center of the country, the densely populated and BJP bastions, the more developed and prosperous south There will be much better representation than in India, where the BJP remains relatively weak.

The irony with this inauguration is that Mr Modi’s critics accuse him and his party – after two consecutive electoral victories and already a fierce campaign for the next one in 2024 – of undermining electoral politics.

Hartosh Singh Bal, editor of the Indian news magazine The Caravan, said, “Under Modi, the deeply institutionalized workings of a democracy, of which Parliament is its best representative, have virtually collapsed.”

He underlined, “The whole tradition of debate, disagreement, question-answer and argument, which is the basis of a coherent policy, has completely disappeared or been destroyed.”

– Lessons from History –

Opponents accuse the BJP of suppressing debate in parliament, conducting tax raids, federal investigations and lawsuits to undermine key opposition figures.

A meeting of parliament was disrupted in February after the opposition and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi blocked requests to investigate possible links between Mr Modi and tycoon Gautam Adani, whose group has been accused of fraud.

Adani Empire denies these allegations.

Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi during a press conference in New Delhi on March 25, 2023 (AFP/Archive - Mani Sharma)
Indian Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi during a press conference in New Delhi on March 25, 2023 (AFP/Archive – Mani Sharma)

The following month, Rahul Gandhi was banned from the Indian Parliament due to a prison sentence for defamation, following a comment he made during the 2019 election campaign in the state of Gujarat (west), from which the prime minister originated.

The election slogan of the BJP that came to power in 2014 was “India without Congress”, a Congress spokesperson recalls.

“They want democracy without opposition,” he said, “how can there be democracy without opposition?”.

For his part, Amit Malviya, leading the BJP’s campaign on social media, intends to boycott the inauguration of the new parliamentary seat in a reference to colonialism, drawing a parallel to the current seat in 1927 by Viceroy Lord Irwin . In the presence of Rahul Gandhi’s great grandfather Motilal Nehru.

“The Congress, which then had no hesitation in kneeling before the British, now has a problem attending the inauguration, even if the person leading the ceremony is a democratically elected prime minister,” he told AFP. Said, “How do you explain the loyalty of the Congress?” Its contempt for the British and Indian people?”

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