Indian opposition to boycott inauguration of new parliament

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India’s opposition parties on Wednesday said they would boycott the inauguration of a glitzy new parliament building, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of a “grave insult” to democracy by excluding the president.

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Construction of the building is part of a Central Vista project aimed at revamping or replacing British colonial-era government facilities, including a new residence for the prime minister.

Work on the parliament building began in January 2021 and is estimated to have cost around 12 billion rupees ($145 million), according to media reports.

Since the project was announced, it has faced criticism over a lack of transparency and high costs. It has also been hit by allegations it violated environmental and land laws.

On Wednesday, 19 opposition parties criticized the government’s decision to exclude Indian President Droupadi Murmu -- the head of state -- from an inauguration event set for Sunday in New Delhi.

“Prime Minister Modi’s decision to inaugurate the new parliament building by himself, completely sidelining President Murmu, is not only a grave insult but a direct assault on our democracy which demands a commensurate response,” the parties said in a joint statement.

“When the soul of democracy has been sucked out from the parliament, we find no value in a new building. We announce our collective decision to boycott the inauguration,” they added.

The government has defended construction of the building, saying it was necessary and a matter of pride for Indians.

The current parliament, designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker, was opened in 1927.

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