The ruling BJP and the Congress have been locked in verbal duel over the inauguration of the new Parliament building.
While the Congress on Monday accused the BJP of disrespecting Constitutional propriety by not inviting the President to the inauguration and demanding that the President and not Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurates the structure, the BJP hit back, accusing Congress of indulging in “cheap politics” of running down the country’s achievements for its selfish ends.
Why President not invited? asks Congress
In a series of tweets, Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said that the then president Ram Nath Kovind was not invited to the new Parliament’s foundation laying ceremony in December 2020 while claiming that that President Droupadi Murmu is not being invited for the inauguration of the new Parliament building.
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“The Modi government has repeatedly disrespected propriety. The Office of the President of India is reduced to tokenism under the BJP-RSS Government,” the Congress president alleged.
Noting that Parliament is the supreme legislative body while the President is the highest Constitutional authority, he said she alone represents the government, the Opposition, and every citizen alike.
“She is the First Citizen of India. Inauguration of the new Parliament building by her will symbolise the government’s commitment to democratic values and Constitutional propriety,” Kharge tweeted.
Modi is slated to inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28 following an invitation by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
Similar sentiments have been expressed by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and several Opposition leaders who have demanded that the President inaugurates the Parliament building.
Congress doing cheap politics: BJP
Sources claimed that Murmu was approached for inaugurating the building but she wanted the prime minister to do it.
“Whenever a good thing happens, Congress leaders resort to cheap politics which has become its hallmark under Rahul Gandhi. When the nation is feeling proud on the construction of the new Parliament building, its leaders have again stooped to a new low,” BJP chief spokesperson Anil Baluni said.
Citing records, BJP sources said the Parliament House Annexe was inaugurated by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi on October 24, 1975.
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Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma told a press conference that the government and the prime minister should urge the President to inaugurate the building and she should be accorded the honour as head of the institution of Parliament.
“The Congress has expressed its concern as the principal opposition party and we feel strongly that the constitutional propriety should be maintained and the honourable president who is the head of the Parliament should be requested by the government to inaugurate.”
“The honourable prime minister has every right to be there and we are only pointing out what is constitutionally correct,” Sharma told reporters.
He said that it was not proper constitutionally to keep the President of India out of such a big decision.
Kharge charged that the Modi government has ensured the election of the President of India from Dalit and tribal communities only for electoral reasons.
“We feel that the Constitution is not being respected… It does not give a good message that earlier a Dalit President was not invited and now a tribal woman is being kept away from this decision,” Sharma said.
Sharma, who has been a long-time Parliamentarian and a former deputy leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha, said all decisions concerning the summoning of the Parliament are vested in the President of India under Article 85.
“It is also the first time since 1952 that each member of Parliament gets an individual summons by name from the President to attend the Parliament. Once the session concludes, the constitutional power and authority to declare the session closed or prorogued vests with the President of India,” Sharma asserted.
Articles 60 and 111 of the Constitution of India make it clear that the President is the head of parliament, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said.
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“It was bizarre enough that the PM performed the ground-breaking ceremony and puja when construction began, but totally incomprehensible (and arguably unconstitutional) for him and not the President to inaugurate the building,” he tweeted.
Union Minister Hardeep Puri reacted sharply to Tharoor’s remarks.
“Congress has a habit of raking controversies where none exist. While President is the Head of State, PM is the Head of Govt and leads the Parliament on behalf of the Govt, whose Policies are effected in form of Laws. The President is not a Member of either House, whereas PM is,” he tweeted.
BJP national spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi slammed the opposition parties, saying they do not refrain from “playing negative politics” even in this “glorious moment”.
“The Opposition is indulging in cheap politics at a time when they should be together because Parliament is a symbol of Indian democracy. It is not related to any political party,” he said
The Congress and other parties have been critical of the project to build the new Parliament building undertaken by the Modi government.
Sharma said the British Parliament has been there at the same place since 1215 and was rebuilt at the same place after it was destroyed in a fire.
In America after the civil war, the US Congress is on Capitol Hill since 1792. The France Parliament has been there since 1928, he said.
Asked whether the Congress would boycott the new Parliament building inauguration, he said, “The question is of the basic demand and what the Constitution says. We want to hear from the government on whether they respect the Constitution. Parliament does not belong to the government, it belongs to India.”
(With inputs from agencies)