House bids adieu to grand rotunda | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

House bids adieu to grand rotunda

By, New Delhi
Sep 19, 2023 12:10 AM IST

Modi leads tributes as mother of democracy spends last day in old home, sets sights on a historic beginning in new Parliament building

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led lawmakers in paying tribute to the abode of India’s democracy on Monday as members cutting across party lines extolled the contribution of the iconic institution that once housed the drafters of the Constitution and served as the custodian of the world’s largest democracy for seven decades.

HT Image
HT Image

Opening the special session on the eve of the move to the new building next door, Modi struck a nostalgic tone as he praised Parliament for gaining the trust of the common citizen, recalled milestones in India’s democratic journey, praised the contributions of former presidents and prime ministers, including Jawaharlal Nehru, and hailed flagship programmes of his government and India’s achievement as G20 chair.

“We have undertaken a journey of 75 years, and as we bid goodbye to this Parliament house, we must remember that though this house was built by the colonial government, it was built by our sweat and toil, by our countrymen and with our money,” Modi said during the 80 minute speech.

“We might be shifting to the new building but this building will keep on inspiring the coming generations, as it is a golden chapter of the journey of Indian democracy”, he said.

Over the course of seven hours, 32 lawmakers spoke on a gamut of subjects ranging from the G20 Summit to the history of India’s democracy.

The future proceedings of Parliament will commence from a modern building complex next to the old one. On May 28, Modi threw open the doors of the sprawling new building with state-of-the-art facilities and increased seating for lawmakers pending a potential delimitation exercise at the national level.

In a rare acknowledgement, Modi spoke at length about the country’s first Prime Minister Nehru and his Cabinet, as well as other Congress PMs.

“Who wouldn’t clap at the mention of Pandit Nehru’s contribution. Pandit Nehru’s ‘stroke of the midnight hour’ (speech) will always remain an inspiration. As Atal-ji said, governments will come and go, but the country has to remain forever,” Modi said, referring to Nehru’s iconic speech at the stroke of freedom, and Vajpayee’s stirring remarks shortly before his government fell in 1996.

Referring to Nehru’s first cabinet and India’s first law minister BR Ambedkar, Modi said Ambedkar sought to imbibe the “best practices of the world” and came out with a historic factory act and landmark water policy. In 2019, Modi launched the Jal Jeevan mission to connect every rural household with functional tap water. The BJP has often been critical of Nehru’s tenure at the helm of the country, blaming his policies for many of the problems that the country battles today.

Paying tributes to Ambedkar, who led the drafting of the Constitution, Modi said Ambedkar saw modern industrialisation as important to the cause of social justice. “There have been many industrial policies and there will be more, but the soul of it is the same as the first one,” the PM said, detailing how Ambedkar saw industrialisation as key for the empowerment of Dalits.

In an emotive turn, Modi recalled the contributions of all former PMs and said the colonial-era building will remain a “source of inspiration” and “place of pilgrimage” for all times to come. “From president Kalam to Kovind to Murmu, from Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Manmohan Singh, whoever has been part of this Parliament, they have toiled to take the nation forward.”

Modi referred to the success of Chandrayaan-3 and expressed gratitude for the acknowledgement of the success of G20 by the chair, saying whether it was the Non-Aligned Movement or the G20, the country and the House acted unanimously. “G20’s success is not the success of one man or one party but this entire country.”

Drawing an analogy to a family that shifts into a new home, the PM said that it was an emotional moment for him, recalling that when he entered the House as a first-time member in 2014, he paid his respects by bowing to the building. “It is the faith in this House of the people which enabled a small tea-seller to come to this august House…I never imagined that the nation would give me this much love, respect and blessings”, he said.

The new 64,500 sq metre, four-storey complex, built at a cost of 971 crore, takes over from the iconic circular building that was inaugurated in 1927 to function as the legislature of a British India, before housing independent India’s first lawmakers. But in recent years, the colonial-era structure showed signs of wear, and space was increasingly cramped, even for important legislative business. The grandiose new building houses a Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, a library and a Constitution Hall, apart from offices. It seats 1,272 people in its two chambers, nearly 500 more than the old one in at least four times as much space, according to the government.

In his speech, the PM noted the confidence, achievement and capabilities being infused in Amrit Kaal, the period leading to the centenary of India’s independence. He said Parliament gradually became progressively more inclusive, with representatives from all communities and sections, including Dalits, backwards and women. He recalled historic pieces of legislation passed over the course of 75 years, including reducing the voting age to 18, formation of new states with unanimous approval and scrapping of Article 370 that accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and the Goods and Services Tax. He said in all, Parliament had 7,500 members and 600 women lawmakers. “Women MPs have raised our stature and filled our hearts with pride”. Recounting some notable lawmakers, Modi said the late Indrajit Gupta was a member for 43 years, Shafiqur Rahman continued to serve till the age of 93, and Chandrani Murmu held the record of being the youngest member at 25.

In his speech, Modi also highlighted the creation of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand during Vajpayee’s tenure. “But the creation of Telangana left bitter memories and neither Andhra Pradesh nor Telangana could celebrate,” he said, adding that the bifurcation was carried out with wrong intent.

The comments sparked a controversy with Telangana’s Bharat Rashtra Samithi saying the remarks were “disparaging” and factually incorrect.

Modi mentioned a raft of important landmarks of India’s modern history, its high points and some lows – beginning from the valour of Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt and the writing of the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly members who sat in this chamber. He said Lal Bahadur Shastri, the country’s second prime minister, sowed the seeds of the Green Revolution “from this very House”, while his successor, Indira Gandhi played an important role in the liberation of Bangladesh.

Modi recalled the Emergency years, when democracy was “wounded”. “However, it is faith in this very house that people ensured a return to democracy soon”. Modi also praised the “courage” of the Narasimha Rao government and Manmohan Singh for showing a “new path for the economy”.

Modi said that MPs attended sessions as a call of duty despite facing ill-health and personal misfortunes. “Even on wheelchairs, MPs have come to Parliament as a call of duty.” Parliament, he said, did not stop even when the world and the country was devastated by the pandemic.

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