The Congress has blamed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “self-obsession” and “megalomania” for the collapse of communication between the government and the Opposition that will cloud Sunday’s inauguration of the new Parliament building.
At least 20 Opposition parties have decided to boycott the event arguing the constitutional scheme demands that President Droupadi Murmu, and not the Prime Minister, inaugurate the building.
The Congress on Saturday singled out Modi, accusing him of arrogance and conceit at the countrywide media interactions it held to flag the government’s failures over the last nine years.
The party highlighted how the President and the Vice-President had been left out of the event, and said this was because Modi wanted to see his name on the plaque.
“The Prime Minister’s insistence on inaugurating the new Parliament himself is not only an insult to the President, it is an affront to the Constitution. The Constitution is clear about the hierarchy in the context of Parliament,” senior politician Pramod Tiwari said in Raipur.
Tiwari, the party’s deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, added: “The country is ruled by an emperor who can’t tolerate anybody else; an emperor who can’t see any other photo in the frame, any other name on the plaque’s stone.
“A self-obsessed man is unable to see reason; is incapable of loving the country. Isn’t it strange that the Lok Sabha Speaker will be present but not the Rajya Sabha Chairperson? It is all about one man’s megalomania.”
The Rajya Sabha Chairperson is also the Vice-President of the country, whom official protocol places ahead of the Prime Minister. The Congress says the presence of the President or Vice-President would have made it difficult for Modi to inaugurate the building.
“The Prime Minister humiliates the Opposition daily; he has conspired to finish the entire Opposition,” Kanhaiya Kumar told the media in Hyderabad.
“He wants to restrict democracy (and practise) autocracy, one-man dominance. In his self-obsession, Modi is determined to crush all democratic institutions. His arrogance of power is such that he considers himself omnipotent and wants to be omnipresent.”
As instances of Modi’s autocratic style, Kanhaiya invoked his dismissal of basic financial assistance to the poor as “rewri culture”, the government’s claim that it hasn’t the money to pay pensions while it builds a Rs 20,000-crore Central Vista.
“How is it possible that his industrialist friends have earned astronomical sums at a time when every other Indian suffered income losses? The BJP thinks that Adani’s progress is the nation’s progress,” he said.
Congress spokespersons flagged the curtailment of MPs’ freedom in Parliament and the shrinking democratic space under Modi.
“Rahul Gandhi was thrown out of Parliament because he asked questions on crony capitalism,” party spokesperson Gourav Vallabh said in Nagpur.
“But the questions remain — why is the people’s hard-earned money, kept with the SBI and the LIC, still being invested in the Adani group? Why can’t the Chinese intrusion be discussed in Parliament?”
Congress social media head Supriya Shrinate raised similar questions in Thiruvananthapuram, saying the attack on institutions, damage to the social fabric and the lack of accountability had generated a crisis for democracy in the country.
“Modi refuses to answer a single question on Adani and instead conspires to oust Rahul Gandhi from Parliament. The Prime Minister lies to the nation on the Chinese intrusion and makes China the biggest trading partner,” she said.
Shrinate added: “BJP leaders, MLAs, MPs, ministers and the Prime Minister himself are hell-bent on tearing the social fabric apart. The Centre is almost at war with Opposition-ruled states.”
“The bridges of communication between the government and the Oppositionhave broken down. Chief ministers are refusing to attend a meeting called by the Niti Aayog. The First Citizen of India is not invited to the inauguration of the new Parliament.
“The Opposition can’t remain a mute spectator. It is the responsibility of the Prime Minister to restore people’s faith in democracy and the communication channels with the Opposition.”
The political tradition has been for the government to reach out to senior Opposition leaders to settle any differences. The Prime Minister too gets involved if a solution appears difficult.
But Modi and his senior ministers have refused to reach out to the Opposition on a matter as important as the inauguration of the new Parliament. BJP ministers and other senior leaders have instead chosen to taunt the Opposition parties and question their patriotism over the boycott decision.
The boycott appears to portend a further rise in bitterness between the government and the Opposition in the final year of Modi’s second term.
The BJP and the Congress will be locked in tough electoral battles in five states later this year, and the preparations for the general election will start soon after, offering little time for a normalisation of relations.