Beginning today, the nation’s Parliament will start functioning from a new, more spacious and better-designed building. On Monday, a full House convened for the last time at the iconic structure designed and built by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in 1927, to discuss 75 years of its journey in independent India, including achievements, experiences, memories and learnings. Opening the special five-day session, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, in an emotion-rich speech, said the old building will remain “a source of inspiration” and “a place of pilgrimage” in the future. In his 80-minute-long speech that reflected the solemn occasion, the PM recalled the contributions of his predecessors, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, and said the House, over the years, has become more inclusive of the country’s population. It was appropriate on the part of the PM to recall Nehru’s “tryst with destiny” speech, delivered on the eve of Independence, and arguably the most eloquent utterance heard in Parliament. In a tribute to Nehru, the PM said, “the echo of Pandit Nehru’s ‘at the stroke of midnight’ (speech) in this Parliament will continue to inspire us.”
Parliament is not merely the building. The shifting of premises does not portend any radical departure in the functioning of the House. However, the special session could be an occasion, as has been promised, to pause and reflect on the functioning of this august institution. More than one Opposition MP who spoke after the PM complained that their voices are not listened to in Parliament. Unfortunately, the toxic polarisation in electoral politics seems to have seeped into Parliament as well, its impact visible in the lack of trust between the government and the Opposition. With frequent House disruptions and boycotts, lawmaking has suffered. The onus is on the ruling party, which has a simple majority in the Lok Sabha, to take the lead in retrieving the situation. It must build bridges with the Opposition and restore the culture of debate and deliberation in Parliament. In his speech, the PM mentioned that the greatest achievement of Parliament is that the faith of the people in the institution has only increased in over 75 years. The Indian people trust their representatives, and that the men and women who represent them go about their jobs with sincerity and commitment in the best interests of the nation. In its new home, India’s storied parliamentary democracy, hopefully, will renew its tryst with destiny, and as the PM promised, continue its journey in deepening democracy and transform the nation into a developed country by 2047.