Days ahead of the opening of the new parliament building, a controversy has erupted as the Congress on Monday accused the government of disrespecting Constitutional propriety and demanded that President Droupadi Murmu should do the inauguration instead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge said that the then president Ram Nath Kovind was not invited for the new Parliament's foundation laying ceremony in December 2020 and claimed that President Murmu is not being invited for the inauguration of the new Parliament building.
"The Modi Government has repeatedly disrespected propriety. The Office of the President of India is reduced to tokenism under the BJP-RSS Government," the Congress president alleged in a series of tweets.
Noting that Parliament is the supreme legislative body while the President is the highest Constitutional authority, he said she alone represents the government, the Opposition, and every citizen alike.
"She is the First Citizen of India. Inauguration of the new Parliament building by her will symbolise the government's commitment to democratic values and Constitutional propriety," Kharge tweeted.
Sources claimed that Murmu was approached for inaugurating the building but she wanted Modi to do it. The prime minister is set to inaugurate it on May 28.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and several opposition leaders have said that the president should inaugurate the new Parliament House and not the prime minister.
"Articles 60 and 111 of the Constitution of India make it clear that the President is the head of parliament. It was bizarre enough that the PM performed the ground-breaking ceremony and puja when construction began, but totally incomprehensible (and arguably unconstitutional) for him and not the President to inaugurate the building," Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeted.
Congress' senior spokesperson Anand Sharma told a press conference on Monday that the government and the prime minister should urge the President in this regard and she as head of the institution of Parliament be accorded that honour.
"The Congress has expressed its concern as the principal opposition party and we feel strongly that the constitutional propriety should be maintained and the honourable president who is the head of the Parliament should be requested by the government to inaugurate.
"The honourable prime minister has every right to be there and we are only pointing out what is constitutionally correct," Sharma told reporters.
It is not proper constitutionally to keep the President of India out of such a big decision, he also said.
Kharge charged that the Modi Government has ensured the election of the President of India from Dalit and tribal communities only for electoral reasons.
"We feel that the Constitution is not being respected... It does not give a good message that earlier a Dalit President was not invited and now a tribal woman is being kept away from this decision," Sharma said.
He stressed that it is a "serious matter" that has been agitating the minds of many people who have been associated with Parliament.
Sharma, who has been a long-time Parliamentarian and a former deputy leader of the Congress in Rajya Sabha, said all decisions concerning the summoning of the Parliament are vested in the President of India under Article 85.
"It is also the first time since 1952 that each member of Parliament gets an individual summons by name from the President to attend the Parliament. Once the session concludes, the constitutional power and authority to declare the session closed or prorogued vests with the President of India," Sharma asserted.
"It should be very clear as to what the Parliament is and does not comprise of only one house, but both the houses... The prime minister has every right to be there as he is the leader of the lower house," he said.
The Congress has been critical of the project to build the new Parliament building.
Sharma said the British Parliament has been there at the same place since 1215 and was rebuilt at the same place after it was destroyed in a fire.
In America after the civil war, the US Congress is on Capitol Hill since 1792. The France Parliament has been there since 1928, he said.
Asked whether the Congress would boycott the new Parliament building inauguration, he said, "The question is of the basic demand and what the Constitution says. We want to hear from the government on whether they respect the Constitution. Parliament does not belong to the government, it belongs to India."
'Congress trying to create unnecessary controversy'
The BJP accused the Congress of trying to create an unnecessary controversy over the inauguration of the new Parliament building and said it has the habit of indulging in "cheap politics" of running down the country's achievements for its selfish ends.
"Whenever a good thing happens, Congress leaders resort to cheap politics which has become its hallmark under Rahul Gandhi. When the nation is feeling proud on the construction of new Parliament building, its leaders have again stooped to a new low," BJP chief spokesperson Anil Baluni said.
Hitting out at the Congress, Baluni said, "Its perverse mindset has become more entrenched because of Rahul Gandhi's anarchist politics and is on full display as the country excitedly awaits the inauguration of the new building of Parliament, which will stand as a symbol of the Indian democracy."
He alleged that Congress leaders' remarks reflect the "negative and defeatist mindset" that has consistently led them to hurt the national morale time and again.