Rahul Gandhi | File photo: PTI
New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said neither getting President Droupadi Murmu to inaugurate the new Parliament building nor inviting her to the ceremony is an "insult" to the country's highest constitutional post, asserting that Parliament is not built by "bricks of ego" but through constitutional values.
His remarks came after 19 opposition parties, including the Congress, Left, AAP and TMC, announced their decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament complex by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying they find no value in a new building when the soul of democracy has been sucked out of Parliament.
In a tweet in Hindi, Gandhi said,"Neither getting the President to inaugurate the Parliament nor inviting her to the ceremony is an insult to the country's highest constitutional post."
"Parliament is not constructed by bricks of ego, but through constitutional values," Gandhi said.
Modi will inaugurate the new Parliament building on May 28 following an invitation by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla.
The opposition parties have said the President is not only the Head of State in India, but also an integral part of Parliament as she summons, prorogues, and addresses it. Therefore, they have argued that the President should inaugurate the building and not the PM.
Several Congress leaders on Wednesday slammed the government over the PM inaugurating Parliament and not the President.
In a tweet in Hindi, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said,"The 'shehnai' of 'democracy' should be played in Parliament, but ever since the self-proclaimed 'Vishwaguru' has arrived, the cannon of 'autocracy' is being fired."
Tagging the statement of the 19 Opposition parties announcing the boycott of the inauguration of the new Parliament building, Ramesh said,"Why should we give oxygen to the Prime Minister's edifice complex?"
Congress general secretary organisation K C Venugopal said Parliament is sacrosanct, and as the Head of State, President Murmu is the only authority that can preside over the solemn occasion of the inauguration of the new Parliament building.
"PM Modi inaugurating the new premises is unsurprising, but appalling nonetheless. As the opposition, we refuse to participate in this charade designed solely to feed the PM's megalomania," Venugopal said.
Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also attacked Union minister Hardeep Puri for his remarks that Indira Gandhi inaugurated the parliament annexe building in 1975 and Rajiv Gandhi laid the foundation of the parliament library in 1987.
"But those were subsidiary buildings, dear Hardeep S Puri - an Annexe and a Library. This is a whole new Parliament! Doesn't the Constitution say the President is its head, convenes Parliament and prorogues it? So shouldn't she inaugurate it rather than the PM?", he said
In their joint statement announcing the boycott, the 19 Opposition parties said Prime Minister Modi's decision to inaugurate the new Parliament building by himself, "completely sidelining President Droupadi Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy which demands a commensurate response".
"When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from Parliament, we find no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building," the parties said.
"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," they said.
The Congress has been attacking the government over the issue, accusing it of disrespecting constitutional propriety and demanding that President Murmu should do the inauguration instead of Prime Minister Modi. PTI