NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s main opposition parties boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inauguration of the new parliament building on Sunday in a rare show of unity against the president’s nine-year-old Hindu nationalist party. in power and is seeking a third term in next year’s general elections.
Modi inaugurated the new parliament in the capital, New Delhi, offering prayers as Hindu priests sang religious hymns at the start of the ceremony. Opposition parties criticized the act, stating that the president had relegated the president, who only has ceremonial powers but is the head of state and the highest constitutional authority.
“May this iconic building be a cradle of empowerment, ignite dreams and fuel them into reality,” Modi tweeted shortly after the inauguration.
The inauguration was attended by senior ministers from Modi’s party and leaders of his coalition partners, but at least 19 opposition parties were absent from the event, which coincided with the birth anniversary of a Hindu nationalist ideologue.
In a statement, opposition groups called Modi’s decision “to inaugurate the building himself” a “serious insult” to Indian democracy, adding that the government had “disqualified, suspended and silenced” opposition lawmakers to pass “controversial legislation” with little debate.
“When the soul of democracy has been taken from parliament, we find no value in a new building,” the parties added.
Influential Home Minister Amit Shah said the opposition had politicized the event and that other leaders of Modi’s party saw the boycott as “an insult to the prime minister.”
The new triangular-shaped building – estimated to have cost $120 million – is part of a $2.8 billion transformation of British-era offices and residences in central New Delhi, which will also include building blocks for house government departments and ministries, as well as Modi’s new private residence. The project, called “Vista Central”, stretches for 3.2 kilometers (1.9 miles).
The project was announced in 2019 and Modi inaugurated the works the following year, in December 2020.
The plan has been heavily criticized by opposition politicians, architects and heritage experts, many of whom have described it as environmentally irresponsible, a threat to cultural heritage and too expensive.
The newly opened building is located directly opposite the old Indian Parliament, a circular structure designed by British architects in the early 20th century. The new four-storey building has a total of 1,272 seats in two chambers, almost 500 more than the previous building.