Social media wonders if new Parliament building is a step towards Hindu rashtra

MP Mahua Moitra thinks it smacks too much of a ‘grihapravesh’ into a house the PM built; many of the general public are equally caustic

The 'sengol' supposedly designated for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (left; photo courtesy: Amit Shah); PM Modi inaugurating the lion capital by the new Parliament building (right; photo courtesy @TimesAlgebraIND/Twitter)
The 'sengol' supposedly designated for the Speaker of the Lok Sabha (left; photo courtesy: Amit Shah); PM Modi inaugurating the lion capital by the new Parliament building (right; photo courtesy @TimesAlgebraIND/Twitter)

NH Digital

The PM has inaugurated everything from trains to Twitter handles in the past, but social media appears divided on the issue of the Prime Minister inaugurating the new Parliament building on Sunday.

Even as Union ministers and Opposition leaders continue to defend or question the way the programme seems to ignore the President of India— who, according to media reports, has not even been invited to the function yet and is travelling in Jharkhand—social media too is agog with comments, barbs and opinion.

“The real question is, will the parliament function better after this with proper debates on bills? Or will it be old whine in new building?” reads one witty post. Others echo the sentiment and wonder if expecting the Parliament to function better is not a pipe dream, given the experience of the last nine years. “Given the regime’s history, it is more focused on external glitter, gloss and appearance than substantial debates and discussions”—this is a sentiment shared by many, it would seem.

Another post dripping sarcasm read, “Our Opposition parties are really very weird. When a man doesn’t miss a chance to inaugurate tunnels to bridges to metros and trains, how dare they even think that he would allow the President to inaugurate the new building?” Others were quick to recall that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had even inaugurated the Twitter handle of the CBI.

“This is NOT Modiji’s Grihapravesh for house that he built with his own money,” tweeted Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra. She proceeded to point out that the President of India is “Number 1 in warrant [sic] of precedence, [the Vice-President] is [Number] 2 and the Prime Minister comes [third]." She added that the government seemed "ignorant about constitutional niceties”.

Twitter has been abuzz for a while with speculation over the new Parliament building. Some wondered whether astrologers and vaastu experts had advised the Prime Minister to get a new building built before 2024 to ensure that he remains in power. On a more serious note, others noted that the Prime Minister had inaugurated the National War Memorial too, although it is the President who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

Opposition leaders, especially of the 19 parties which are boycotting the function, have been at pains to point to Article 79 of the Constitution, which says, “There shall be a Parliament for the Union which shall consist of the President and two Houses.” It is the President who summons the Parliament, addresses the first joint session of the two houses each time, and the first business of parliament every year is to take up the motion of thanks for the President’s address. 

What has divided social media is also the report that the Prime Minister would be performing a puja, a Hindu ritual, while dedicating the building to the nation. The nation, several posts noted, comprises people other than Hindus and the ceremony would tend to leave them all out. Why show off one religion? It doesn't seem in alignment with the spirit of the Constitution of India, which avows that we are a 'secular' nation, many have felt.

Others seem to believe that this is just one more step towards a Hindu rashtra (nation), a belief bolstered by Wednesday’s announcement that a sengol, a sceptre, will be placed next to the Speaker as a symbol of the transfer of power in 1947. Now, a sceptre is a staff that a ruler may carry as a symbol of their sovereignty and authority. But must the Speaker of the Lok Sabha in a democracy need one?

Contrary to the narrative on social media that the sengol, fished out of a museum in Allahabad, was handed over ceremonially to the first Prime Minister of India 15 minutes before midnight on August 14, others claimed that it was at the suggestion of Chakravarti Rajagopalachari that the sengol with the Nandi bull on top was made by a mutth in Tamil Nadu.

The sengol or sceptre is thus another religious symbol that strengthens the move towards a Hindu rashtra, they pointed out.

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