It is unfortunate that a controversy has erupted over the inauguration of the new Parliament building, scheduled to be held on May 28. That the day happens to be the 140th birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, whose memory arouses strong passions on both sides of the political divide, has exacerbated the dispute. What the Opposition, especially the Congress, found objectionable is that the building would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, not President Droupadi Murmu. There is a point in the argument that the honour should have gone to the President. The Constitution clearly mentions that the President is a part of Parliament. There was a time when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ceased to be a member of Parliament when the Allahabad High Court unseated her. Yet, she was allowed to participate in the discussions in the House without any voting right.
What this highlights is that Parliament cannot exist without the President. In fact, it is the President who summons both Houses of Parliament for their sessions, usually thrice a year. There is another entity that has been overlooked. It is the office of the Vice-President, who also happens to be the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, which is the Upper House of Parliament. In this case, both the President and the Vice-President have not been invited to the function. When Modi laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building and performed the bhumi puja in December 2020, the order of succession was not followed. While Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla was invited, the chairman of the Rajya Sabha was not invited. Had the Vice-President been invited, the honour of laying the foundation stone would have gone to him, as per protocol. All this was taken into account while the prime minister became the chief priest on the occasion with no attention paid to secularism, which remains part of the Preamble of the Constitution.
The new Parliament House will have state-of-the-art facilities with a larger capacity. However, a building does not make a parliament. What makes a building a parliament is the kind of debate and discussion that happens there. It is the place where government policies and programmes are discussed threadbare before they are converted into Bills and eventually Acts. When questions are raised about the effectiveness of Parliament, the government has the moral obligation to vest it with power and dignity so that they truly represent the aspirations of the people of India.
(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here. To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)