The grand festivities that the government is planning around the inauguration of the new Parliament building on May 28, including the placement of a historic sceptre — a Tamil Sengol, received a setback as 19 Opposition parties announced a boycott of the event.

Even as Home Minister Amit Shah was announcing the significance of the historic gold-plated sceptre, received by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru as symbolic of the transfer of power from the British, and which places the expectation of a just, fair rule, the Opposition launched a tirade, slamming the building as “Modi’s vanity project”.

Deep symbolism

Shah said the Sengol would be installed near the Speaker’s chair, a prominent location in Parliament. “Sengol is derived from the Tamil word ‘semmai’ which means righteousness,” he informed. According to the information given out by the government, Lord Mountbatten asked Nehru which ceremony should symbolise the transfer of power from the British to Indians. Nehru consulted C Rajagopalachari who identified the Chola model where the transfer of power from one king to the other was sanctified by the priests. And the symbol used was the handover of the Sengol from one king to another.

While the Home Minister was delving into history, the government had to contend with a thorny present in the form of a furious, united Opposition. 

Undemocratic act

Nineteen Opposition parties, leaving out only BSP, YSRCP, BJD and TDP, issued a joint statement boycotting the event. The signatory parties said they are boycotting the event because the government has shown utter disrespect to President Droupadi Murmu. Petroleum Minister Hardeep Puri countered this by arguing the Parliament Annexe and the library had been inaugurated by sitting PMs at the time.

The Opposition contended that the grandeur of the new Parliament building contrasts with the government’s systematic “hollowing out” of Parliament.

“Undemocratic acts are not new to the PM, who has relentlessly hollowed out Parliament. Opposition MPs 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. 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 ,” said the Opposition in its joint statement.