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There should be a limit to politics
When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the parliament, we find no value in a new building.
“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,” was the joint statement made by 19 opposition parties.
We are not questioning the right of the opposition parties to protest. Certainly, it is their fundamental right. It is a different matter whether they have any point to really boycott the inaugural function or not. It is a debatable issue and is subjective. One can argue either way. Some may say this is a right call, and some may differ.
Let us concede that the Opposition’s allegations may have some merit. The Opposition parties may also have a point when they say that the President should have inaugurated the new Parliament. However, does this merit a boycott of the inauguration ceremony itself?
Is it not a fact that the political parties in the country always adopt an attitude of ‘what we do is right what others do is wrong’? Things don’t stop there. They rush to various courts and file PIL. To gain political advantage or satisfy their political ego, these parties are harming the common man whose cases are piling up in various courts from district magistrate to the apex court. But who cares?
For them, the common man is a just a physical form of EVM. His job is to take money and press the button; this is what the political parties seem to feel. That is why once again, they have knocked on the doors of the Supreme Court, arguing that the new iconic Parliament House building be inaugurated by the President Draupadi Murmu and not Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And what was the result? The apex court declined to entertain the plea and the petitioner had to withdraw it. It’s time the political parties became more sensitive to the real problems of the people.
What the common man wants is a healthy debate in decent language backed by reason and rhyme and laws which would help him lead a dignified life and not laws which would benefit the political parties. He wants proper scrutiny of the programmes and policies taken up by the government and ensure that the government of the day acts as the custodian of his hard-earned money and does not behave like a monarch or a dynastic leader. Is that happening?
The Parliament belongs to the entire nation. PM Modi may be inaugurating it, but this isn’t how the opposition should have acted. Parliament building is an institution which represents the will of the people and would remain for at least another 100 years after PM Modi’s term.
Will they refuse to enter the building if Congress or any of these 19 other parties comes to power in future or will they decide to demolish the building and go in for a new building as was done in the case of Telangana old secretariat building after the formation of the state? It is ridiculous that the Congress party claimed that Sengol was bogus. Apparently, as it has become over 100-years-old, it has forgotten the history. It’s time they went through the history books once again. Age is no bar for learning.
Opposition argues that they had done so to protect the Constitution and Constitutional rights. They need to answer whether good governance by the ruling party and playing the role of a watchdog by the opposition is not a constitutional obligation. Are they following it? Is stalling the proceedings of the Parliament every day for entire session and indulging in wasting public money a Constitutional act?
The question is why they remember about such rights when it is convenient for them but give different explanations when it is not. There are any number of instances, particularly in India, when the opposition parties or the leaders of outgoing government do not participate in the swearing-in ceremony of a new government. There are occasions when the opposition parties did not participate in functions when one of the highest civilian awards of the country is conferred. These are some occasions which need to be seen from the perspective of the long-term history of institutions and not from the partisan rivalries of the present day.
Boycott certainly is not the only way to protest. After raising the issue, they could have said that they would the attend the ceremony under protest and could have gone to the new building wearing black badges.
Right from the day the foundation stone was laid for the new Sansad building, opposition parties and many civil society groups and environmentalists criticised the government and felt that there was no need for a new building. This included the Congress party as well. Then why did the Congress government led by P V Narasimha Rao work out an elaborate plan to construct a new building? Of course, it is a different issue that the proposal was later put in cold storage.
Once the delimitation of Lok Sabha constituencies takes place in 2026 and the number of MPs would go up to over 1,200 where will they be seated? Do they not know that the present Parliament house building cannot accommodate that many people? Will the session be held in two shifts? It is not that the lawmakers do not know all this. But it is personal rivalry that is dominating the real cause. Opposition may not like Modi. They may want to come to power in 2024. Fine, all this is understandable and there is nothing wrong in such thinking because all parties work for power and do not indulge in charity. But they should also learn to rise above petty politics during historic moments. This our leaders somehow refuse to follow.
Boycotting the event is certainly showing disrespect to the institution and exposes political and intellectual bankruptcy. This certainly is no way to protect the democracy. This is also not the first instance of such disdain.
Opposition parties have history of boycotting President’s address to both Houses of Parliament. There are occasions when they had torn the speech copy and thrown pieces toward the podium. Can that be construed as respect to the President? Adding a rider that they respect the President and her chair but it is a protest against the government does not mean anything. This being the case, how can they now claim that they are fighting for upholding the honour of the President? How come suddenly they realised the importance of Constitution? Didn’t the Congress and the BRS leaders boycott the visit of President Draupadi Murmu to Hyderabad when she came to campaign and At Home was hosted by her during her Southern sojourn?
How can opposition parties explain the boycott of special GST session presided over by the then President Pranab Mukherjee? Did they not skip the ceremony when Pranab Mukherjee was awarded Bharat Ratna? Is it not a fact that they did not have the courtesy to make a quick courtesy call on Ramnath Kovind when he was elected as President of India? Their attitude amounts to sheer hypocrisy.
AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge said not inviting the President to inaugurate new Parliament building was not acceptable as she was the first citizen of India. But then did he forget that the Telangana government did not invite the Governor for the inauguration of the new Secretariat building and the party leaders including some ministers asked where was it written in the Constitution that the Governor be invited? Is she not the first citizen of the state?
It is very clear that political considerations matter most – not protecting the Constitution. While 19 parties are boycotting the inaugural event, there are almost equal number of parties which are on the same page and some of them are regional parties like Biju Janata Dal Odisha, TDP and YSRCP. BRS has not announced its decision yet and seems to be keeping its options open.
One thing is clear that the parties which are boycotting the inaugural function of the Temple of Democracy will not be appreciated by the coming generations when they would browse through the pages of history. They would certainly feel that these parties could not rise above narrow political considerations.