As Parliament moves to new premises, PM calls for a fresh chapter free of bitter partisanship

PM announces introduction of Women’s Reservation Bill; Mallikarjun Kharge calls for constitutional values to be protected; Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury reads out Preamble to emphasise that India and Bharat are the same

Updated - September 19, 2023 10:09 pm IST

Published - September 19, 2023 09:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi at the Central Hall of Parliament, in New Delhi on September 19, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, Congress MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Sonia Gandhi at the Central Hall of Parliament, in New Delhi on September 19, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

The shift from the old Parliament House — now called the Samvidhan Sadan — to the new Parliament building took place on Tuesday, amid a call by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to start a new chapter sans the bitterness of partisanship. The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, urged that the Constitutional values espoused by B.R. Ambedkar be protected.

After a group photo of the members of Parliament was taken against the backdrop of the Samvidhan Sadan, and a joint sitting of both Houses held a ceremony in the Central Hall of that building, the MPs moved into their new premises. They were led by the PM, who was followed by the MPs of the ruling National Democratic Alliance, and by the leader of the Congress legislative party in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary, who held a copy of the Constitution of India and was followed by Opposition MPs.

Expanding women’s participation

In his inaugural address to the Lok Sabha, the PM called on MPs to forget all past bitterness and start a new chapter. He asserted that whatever they are going to do in the new complex should be an inspiration for every citizen of the country. Observing the growing contribution of women in every sector, Mr. Modi stressed the need for including more women in policy-making.

“Taking forward the resolution of women-led development, our government is today presenting a major constitutional amendment Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to expand the participation of women in Lok Sabha and Assemblies,” he said.

‘India, that is Bharat...’

Mr. Chowdhary noted that the Congress had ensured the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha back in 2010. He also read out the Preamble to the Constitution in the new Parliament building, in order to address the earlier controversy over the use of the name “Bharat” in official communication instead of “India”, as is customary while referring to the country in the English language. “This Constitution is no less than the Gita, Quran and Bible for us. Article 1 says, ‘India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States...’ It means that there is no difference between India and Bharat. It will be better if nobody tries to unnecessarily create a rift between the two,” he said.

The Rajya Sabha saw a heated exchange of words between Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. In his speech, Mr. Kharge said that federalism was facing challenges, adding that States were pleading for funds after the implementation of the GST regime. Ms. Sitharaman objected to this statement, insisting that the Centre had paid all dues to States in advance. Mr. Kharge, quoting Ambedkar, also demanded that Constitutional values be protected.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar said that, in the new House, the members should leave the unhealthy baggage of disruptions. Instead, he asked MPs to engage in discussions and debates.

From the old to the new

Earlier in the day, during the valedictory function for the old Parliament building held in its Central Hall, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said that it was his “unwavering belief” that India’s democracy “would continue to shine as a guiding light to the world”, and that the new Parliament House would “serve as a hub of productivity and positive change aligning with the principles of equality, justice, and fraternity established by the framers of the Constitution.”

BJP MP Maneka Gandhi addressed the joint sitting as the most senior sitting member of the Lok Sabha. She noted that she had entered Parliament at the age of 32, nine years after her husband Sanjay Gandhi’s death, and had spent most of her adult life in the storied old Parliament building. “I have seen seven Prime Ministers and the shaping of grand history,” she said.

Referring to the Union Cabinet’s approval of the Women’s Reservation Bill, she said that she was “proud to be a part of this moment when the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has undertaken to repair the deep rooted asymmetry, and to give an equal share in the future of India to all us women.”

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