Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration of the new Parliament on May 28 without the President or Vice-President came under flak from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar, who said that he was “satisfied” he did not attend the event, even while expressing concern about the regressive nature of the ceremony.
“[India’s first PM] Jawaharlal Nehru had conceptualised a modern Indian democracy. Going by the rituals that took place during the inauguration ceremony, one wonders whether the country is going backwards. There is a massive difference between Nehru’s resolution of a modern India and what is happening today. Looking at all this, I am even more satisfied I did not attend the ceremony,” said Mr. Pawar, speaking in Pune.
The octogenarian NCP patriarch questioned the PM and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) snub to President Droupadi Murmu and to Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is also chairman of the Rajya Sabha Chairman, by not inviting them to attend the ceremony.
“No work in Parliament begins without the President’s speech… A session of Parliament begins with the President’s address. The Rajya Sabha chairman, who is the country’s Vice-President was similarly absent. So, the question arises, was this event only for a limited number of people?” Mr. Pawar said.
Mr. Pawar’s daughter, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, also trained her guns on the BJP, saying that the inauguration ceremony was incomplete without the presence of the Opposition parties.
“If this is indeed a democracy, the Opposition must be present in such a ceremony… If the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha was not invited, does it mean that the Parliament does not have an Upper House?” Ms. Sule said, remarking that for her personally, the “temple to democracy” would always be the old Parliament building. She further said that the BJP and the PM had made an “event” out of the entire ceremony.
‘Lethal for democracy’
The NCP’s ally in the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut accused the PM of sidelining the President, who is the head of the nation as well as the Parliament, warning that such an attempt to “take control of Parliament” in this fashion was lethal for democracy.
In his weekly column published in the Sena (UBT)’s mouthpiece Saamana, Mr. Raut said: “The country is witnessing a daily fight to save democracy… As per tradition, there is a demand that the country’s President is supposed to inaugurate the new Parliament building. The demand was first made by Congressman Rahul Gandhi. All Opposition parties supported his demand.” He added that Mr. Modi’s inauguration of the new Parliament building was “against democratic principles” and the stipulated conventions.
Stating that the PM was “insulting” the highest seat of the country, he said: “The President gets no invitation and the Opposition has not been given any respect… By keeping everything to himself, the Prime Minister is displaying his arrogance.”