Will President Murmu be invited? Will she go? Will she resign?
With the BJP govt set to inaugurate a new parliament building on Sunday and the Opposition well opposed, will President Murmu attend or hand over her sceptre to the PM?
It will not be the first time on Sunday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be stealing the thunder from President Droupadi Murmu.
PM Modi has earlier inaugurated the war memorial in New Delhi and launched India’s first indigenous aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant, although the president happens to be the supreme commander of the armed forces. Similarly, the PM had also unveiled the statue of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose of the Indian National Army at India Gate last year. On none of these occasions was the President of India even invited to grace the functions.
The President should in fact resign if she wants to maintain her dignity and protect the Constitution, says an opinion piece in The Wire, which reminds readers of Article 79 of the Indian Constitution. It reads: “There shall be a parliament for the Union which shall consist of the president and two Houses to be known respectively as the Council of States and the House of the People.”
The government’s order of precedence and protocol also puts the president at number one, the vice-president at number two and the prime minister at number three. Twenty Opposition parties have, as reported earlier, decided to boycott the function and accused the government of repeatedly slighting the president.
Faced with a barrage of criticism and unable to respond to that criticism, BJP leaders have been busy arguing that the Congress had put up a candidate against Droupadi Murmu in the presidential election and hence had slighted her earlier! BJP leader and prominent lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani has also weighed in to claim that the president is the ‘head’ only inside Parliament, not outside, while defending the decision to get the new parliament building inaugurated by the prime minister.
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Earlier BJP leaders had argued that since the foundation stone of the parliament annexe was inaugurated by then-prime minister Indira Gandhi and the library by Rajiv Gandhi as PM, there is a precedent and there is nothing unconstitutional in PM Modi inaugurating the new parliament building.
The Congress has debunked the claims made by Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri and the BJP IT cell by pointing out that President VV Giri inaugerated the parliament building's annexe in 1970 and the parliament library in 2002 was inaugurated by then-president KR Narayanan. Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had indeed laid the foundation stone of both buildings but without the hype and the ceremony with which PM Modi laid the foundation of the new parliament building in 2020 and is now about to inaugurate it on Sunday, May 28.
Yet another view has emerged which holds that as a face-saving device and to avoid further embarrassment, the government may invite the president to grace the function on Sunday. Praveen Chakravarthy, writing in The Print, recalled that J. Jayalalithaa had handed over a sceptre or a sengol to MG Ramachandran, and suggested that President Murmu too can be persuaded to hand over the sceptre to the Prime Minister.
PM Narendra Modi has in the past raised eyebrows by walking ahead of President Murmu on ceremonial occasions and official functions at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Similarly, there are photographs in the public domain that show PM Modi seated while then-president Ram Nath Kovind stood behind or by his side.
So, while it is unlikely that President Murmu will resign, is that the only option before her as the opinion piece in The Wire suggested?
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