In another show of unity, 19 Opposition parties — and the AIMIM separately — announced their “collective decision” Wednesday to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building on May 28, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to inaugurate it himself, “completely sidelining” President Droupadi Murmu, insults the high office of the President and violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
Although K Chandrasekhar Rao’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) did not make any official announcement, sources said the party’s MPs will also stay away from the event.
While some parties like the CPI, AAP and Trinamool Congress had announced their decision to stay away Tuesday, the Congress was keen to get as many parties as possible on board and issue a joint statement to make a political point.
Most of the Opposition parties had similarly stayed away from the foundation-stone laying ceremony of the new Parliament building in December 2020 — that move was also coordinated but unannounced.
Together, these parties (including the nine MPs of the Shiv Sena Uddhav faction) have 242 MPs in both the Houses of Parliament. With the BRS which has 16 MPs, the number crosses the 250 mark.
“The inauguration of a new Parliament building is a momentous occasion. Despite our belief that the government is threatening democracy, and our disapproval of the autocratic manner in which the new Parliament was built, we were open to sinking our differences and marking this occasion. However, Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building by himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy which demands a commensurate response,” the parties said in a joint statement.
Among the signatories of the statement are: Congress; Trinamool Congress (TMC); DMK; Janata Dal (United); Aam Aadmi Party (AAP); Nationalist Congress Party (NCP); Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray); Communist Party of India (Marxist); Samajwadi Party (SP); Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD); Communist Party of India (CPI); Muslim League; Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM); National Conference; Kerala Congress (M); Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP); Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK); Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK); and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
Separately, AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi announced that his party’s MPs, too, would not attend.
This is not the first time the Opposition parties have taken such a coordinated decision. In 2021, as many as 17 Opposition parties had boycotted the then President Ram Nath Kovind’s customary address to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in solidarity with the farmers’ unions who were then protesting at Delhi’s borders demanding repeal of the three farm laws.
The parties pointed out that Article 79 of the Constitution of India states that: “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.”
“The President is not only the Head of State in India, but also an integral part of the Parliament. She summons, prorogues, and addresses the Parliament. She must assent for an Act of Parliament to take effect. In short, the Parliament cannot function without the President. Yet, the Prime Minister has decided to inaugurate the new Parliament building without her. This undignified act insults the high office of the President, and violates the letter and spirit of the Constitution. It undermines the spirit of inclusion which saw the nation celebrate its first woman Adivasi President,” the statement said.
The parties said that “undemocratic acts are not new to the Prime Minister, who has relentlessly hollowed out the Parliament”.
“Opposition Members of Parliament have been disqualified, suspended and muted when they raised the issues of the people of India. MPs from the Treasury benches have disrupted Parliament. Many controversial legislations, including the three farm laws, have been passed with almost no debate, and Parliamentary Committees have been practically made defunct,” they said.
“The new Parliament building has been built at great expense during a once-in-a-century pandemic with no consultation with the people of India or MPs, for whom it is apparently being built. When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the Parliament, we find no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building. We will continue to fight — in letter, in spirit, and in substance — against this authoritarian Prime Minister and his government, and take our message directly to the people of India,” read the statement.
Announcing his party’s decision to boycott the event, Owaisi said that according to the Constitution, the Lok Sabha Speaker is entitled to inaugurate the Parliament building and not the PM. “I still hope that the Prime Minister of this country will show his large-heartedness, and would show his love for the Constitution. As a true constitutionalist, if he is, then he should allow the Lok Sabha Speaker to inaugurate the new Parliament. And if he (the Speaker) does, then of course, MIM will be there,” he said in Hyderabad.