New india’s tryst with destiny

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New india’s tryst with destiny

Tuesday, 19 September 2023 | Rahul Datta/ Deepak Kumar Jha/Deepak K Upreti | New Delhi

New india’s tryst with destiny

Old paves way for the new Parliament House

Reminiscing the “extraordinary journey” of the country’s democracy in “Sansad”, which would pass into a relic of the past in another 24 hours, the members in the both Houses of Parliament — the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha — led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday spoke on the milestones in the last 75 years, including many highs and lows which shaped and set the destiny of the nation.

For several members of Parliament, it was a nostalgic trip down memory lanes in the Parliament house by invoking the architects of modern India from first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The five-day special session that commenced in the old Parliament was the last in the historic iconic building that will be now turned into a museum as the MPs of both the Houses would do the rituals of “Grih Pravesh” in the adjacent new Parliament house on Tuesday and then resume the sittings in the afternoon.

“We are saying farewell to the historic building,” the Prime Minister said, adding that though the building was constructed by the British “We cannot forget that the building was built by the labour and sweat of our citizens”.

The Rajya Sabha on its part paid tributes to architects of the Constitution, saying it has stood the test of time with Leader of the House Piyush Goyal, who initiated the debate, stating Parliament upholds democracy. Goyal said while the elected MPs have made big contributions to strengthen democracy, the nominated Rajya Sabha members have also given their best.

Late Dr Chandan Mitra, the then Editor of The Pioneer, served two terms in the Rajya Sabha with the first as nominated by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. Mitra served as Chairman of Select Committee of the Insurance laws (Amendment) Bill in 2014 and then Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce in 2016.

Various political parties, including the BJP, the Congress, also called for passing the Women’s Reservation Bill while discussing the “Parliamentary Journey of 75 Years Starting from Samvidhan Sabha — Achievements, Experiences, Memories and Learnings” on the first day of the five-day special session.

The Parliament house, universally known as “Sansad Bhavan,” was conceived in the circular design by the eminent architects Lutyens and Baker in 1912 and 1913. Its construction spanned from 1921 to 1927, culminating in its inauguration as the seat of the Central Legislative Assembly, the Council of State, and the Chamber of Princes, which also accommodated the Indian Supreme Court until 1958.

Inaugurating the discussion in the Lok Sabha, Modi commended the foresight of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and subsequent leaders such as Lal Bahadur Shastri, PV Narasimha Rao, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

However, he also brought to light the “cash-for-vote” scandal during the Manmohan Singh Government, urging for reflection on all facets of the parliamentary legacy.

“Who can deny Nehru’s significant contributions?” remarked the Prime Minister, emphasising how politics often intervenes in recognising such achievements. Modi also commended PV Narsimha Rao, another Prime Minister from the Congress, for his pioneering economic policies, which are now yielding positive results for the country.

Reflecting on the establishment of Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh by Vajpayee, Modi lamented that the creation of Telangana from Andhra Pradesh during the Congress-led UPA regime led to bitterness and bloodshed in both States.

“In this very Parliament, Pandit Nehru spoke of the ‘stroke of midnight hour,’ and his words continue to inspire us all,” Modi stated, while Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi observed.

Modi highlighted that the most significant achievement of these 75 years is the increasing trust of the common person in Parliament. He expressed hope that the shift to the new building on Tuesday would usher in a new era of hope and confidence. He took a moment to honour those who have guided this House, from Pandit Nehru to Vajpayee. Additionally, he paid tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Chandrashekhar, and Lal Krishna Advani for their enriching contributions.

Modi praised BR Ambedkar’s vision for industrialisation, aimed at bringing social justice, which remains the cornerstone of contemporary industrial policies.

He acknowledged the somber moments when the Parliament mourned the loss of three serving Prime Ministers-Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, and Indira Gandhi. He also recognised the House’s support for the liberation of Bangladesh under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.

The Prime Minister recalled the contributions of the 7500 MPs, including 600 women parliamentarians. He mentioned the oldest member of Lok Sabha, 93-year-old Samajwadi Party MP Shafiqur Rahman Barq, and the youngest, 30-year-old Chandrani Murmu of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), who became an MP at 25.

Speaker Om Birla noted the success of the recently concluded G20 meeting organised in the national Capital and across 60 cities for over a year.

In the Upper House, Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar emphasised that Parliament’s hallowed precincts have witnessed both highs and lows, and reflecting on these experiences is crucial in propelling the country to its rightful place in 2047, when it celebrates the centenary of its independence.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, following the Prime Minister’s address in the Lok Sabha, urged the Centre to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, attributing its inception to Sonia Gandhi. He credited Sonia for her role in the enactment of the RTI Act, Right to Food Act, and Right to Education Act during the UPA’s rule.

Chowdhury highlighted concerns about potential “one-party dictatorship,” attempts to destabilise Opposition party-ruled States, and the “selective” use of Central agencies. He also acknowledged the achievements of previous governments, including the Indo-US nuclear deal and the IT revolution.

Initiating the discussion in the Upper House, Goyal underscored the invaluable contributions made by various chairmen towards strengthening Parliamentary democracy.

Opposition members criticised the BJP-led NDA Government for allegedly favoring majoritarianism and disregarding the principles of Parliamentary democracy.

Leader of Opposition and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge emphasised the foundational role of the Constitution in Indian democracy. He credited his party with the enduring efforts to fortify democratic institutions over seven decades, promoting an inclusive society.

Kharge contrasted the number of speeches delivered by past Prime Ministers, noting that Vajpayee gave 21 speeches and Manmohan Singh around 30, while the current Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, spoke only twice in the last nine years, excluding customary addresses.

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