Prime Minister Modi opens a new parliament in the capital, New Delhi amid criticism

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NEW DELHI (AP) Prime Minister Modi opened a new parliament in the capital, New Delhi, with Hindu priests singing religious hymns and chanting prayers. Opposition parties accused Modi of neutralizing the head of state and constitutional supreme authority, President Drupadi Murum, who has only ceremonial powers.

Shortly after his inauguration, a visibly radiant Mr. Modi appeared in parliament, which was met with thunderous applause from party lawmakers, “Modi, Modi.” In his nearly 40-minute speech, he praised India’s parliamentary democracy and said the country had forgotten its colonial past, referring to the old parliament built by the British when Britain ruled India. Stated.

“India is the mother of democracy,” Modi said as lawmakers banged on their desks. “Years of foreign domination have robbed us of our pride. Today, India has left behind a colonial mentality.”

Congress opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted:
“Parliament is the voice of the people.

At least 19 opposition parties were absent from the event as it coincided with the Hindu nationalist ideologue’s birthday.

The opposition party said in a statement Wednesday that the building had been inaugurated after the government “disqualified, suspended and silenced” opposition lawmakers while enacting “controversial legislation” without key bills passing through debate. said the decision was a “serious insult” to India’s democracy.

Constructed at an estimated cost of US$120 million, the new triangular building is part of a US$2.8 billion renovation of British-era offices and residences in central New Delhi, as well as an apartment complex housing government ministries. It will be included. So is Modi’s new private residence. The entire project, called ‘Central Vista’, spans 3.2 kilometers (1.9 miles).

The project was announced in 2019 and Prime Minister Modi laid the groundwork in December 2020.

The plan was heavily criticized by opposition politicians, architects and monument experts. Many of them said it was irresponsible for the environment, a threat to cultural heritage and too expensive.

In 2021, at least a dozen opposition parties questioned the project’s timeline as it was built at a time when the country was facing a devastating surge in coronavirus cases, fueling further anger. They branded the renovation as Modi’s “vanity project” and said its construction took precedence over the loss of lives and livelihoods during the pandemic. A year ago, a group of 60 former officials sent Modi an open letter highlighting the architectural value of the old parliament building, saying the new plan would “irrevocably” destroy the region’s cultural heritage. 

Modi’s government said the old building “showed signs of aging and abuse” and needed renovation, while the new design “blended the country’s heritage and traditions”.

The new building faces the former Indian Parliament Building, a circular structure designed by British architects in the early 20th century. In his new four-story building, he has a total of 1,272 seats in two chambers, nearly 500 more seats than his previous chamber.

The Old Parliament House will be converted into a museum.

In a televised ceremony on Sunday, Modi prostrated himself before the royal golden scepter. The Indian Bharatiya Janata Party claimed that the scepter symbolized a transfer of power when it was presented to India’s first prime minister on the eve of India’s independence from Britain in 1947. Dozens of Hindu priests followed Modi into parliament, where he placed a scepter next to the speaker’s chair.

Modi’s critics and opposition leaders questioned the historicity of the scepter, saying the emblem was appropriate for a monarchy rather than a democracy.

Last year, Prime Minister Modi renovated a colonial-era boulevard in central New Delhi, opening a street to be used for ceremonial military parades. This boulevard was formerly known as Rajpus or Kingsway, but the Modi party argued that the old name was a “symbol of slavery” that had been “erased for good”, calling it Cartaviya Pass or the Road to Duty. 

The controversy over the new parliament building comes just months after opposition leaders protested the ouster of Gandhi from parliament over a defamation lawsuit over remarks about Modi’s surname. Just a mile from the ceremony, a large police force overwhelmed the protesting Indian wrestlers and about 100 of their supporters. They accused the association president of sexual misconduct and planned to march to the new parliament building. Some demonstrators got into an altercation with the police and were taken away by bus.

Indian Wrestling Federation president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh denies the allegations but is a leading member of the Modi party.