The Trinamul Congress, Left parties and the Aam Aadmi Party have decided to stay away from the inauguration of the new Parliament building, objecting to the event being turned into another showcase for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the Constitution clearly states that Parliament consists of the President and the two Houses.
Several other Opposition parties, which have been talking to each other on staying away from the inauguration by the Prime Minister, are likely to make similar announcements.
The first to announce the boycott was Trinamul, Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien tweeting on Tuesday: “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.”
With many of the MPs receiving the invites on Tuesday, the CPM and the CPI also decided to skip the event. John Brittas of the CPM told The Telegraph that his party would stay away, flagging an additional irritant as a Rajya Sabha MP.
The Rajya Sabha Chairman, who is also the Vice-President, is not mentioned in the invite sent out by the Lok Sabha secretary-general, Brittas said. In the Order of Precedence, the official pecking order, the Vice-President comes above the Prime Minister, making this a protocol issue.
The CPI’s D. Raja told this newspaper that his party would not attend the inauguration.
Late in the night, AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh announced his party’s decision to boycott the inauguration in protest against the “insult” to President Droupadi Murmu. “This is an insult to Dalits, tribal and all deprived sections of society,” he tweeted.
The Congress has been objecting from the very beginning to the President being bypassed to provide a stage for the Prime Minister, pointing to Article 79 of the Constitution that states: “There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People.”
Urban development minister Hardeep Puri sought to counter the criticism by insisting that the Congress was creating a controversy where none existed.
“While President is the Head of State, PM is the Head of Govt & 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,” Puri tweeted.
Citing Article 79, Congress Lok Sabha MP and former minister Manish Tewari shot back: "Ministers of the Union must read the Constitution of India very carefully."
Later in the day, the government changed tack and dug up earlier instances where Congress Premiers had inaugurated buildings in the Parliament complex. The two instances cited by Puri were Indira Gandhi inaugurating the Parliament Annexe in 1975 and Rajiv Gandhi presiding over the inauguration of the Parliament library in 1987.
"Minister @HardeepSPuri I am afraid is trying to obfuscate & dissimulate. There is a difference between an Annexe to the Parliament, Library & a new Parliament building. By the way Chairperson of Council of States @VPIndia is also conspicuous by his absence on invitation card," Tewari tweeted, underscoring the difference between a building that houses the two legislative chambers and the annexe — for committee rooms and offices — and library.