Surrounded by priests, Modi holds a sengol, a Tamil scepter, during the opening of a new building in New Delhi. Photo: PIB/AFP via Getty Images
India's main opposition parties boycotted Prime Minister Narendra Modi's inauguration of the new parliament building.
In a rare show of unity against his Hindu nationalist ruling party, they criticized the event, saying Modi removed President Draupadi Murma, who has only ceremonial powers but is head of state and supreme constitutional authority.
Shortly after his inauguration, during during which Modi offered prayers while Hindu priests sang religious hymns, he entered the parliament. to thunderous applause from his party's deputies, who chanted “Modi, Modi.”
He delivered a nearly 40-minute speech in which he welcomed parliamentary democracy in India and said that the country had left its colonial past behind, referring to the old parliament building built by the British when they ruled India.
“India mother of democracy,” Modi said as lawmakers pounded on their desks. “Several years of foreign rule have robbed us of our pride. Today, India has abandoned this colonial mindset.”
The leader of the opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, tweeted: “Parliament is the voice of the people. The Prime Minister views the opening of the Houses of Parliament as a coronation.”
Mr Modi walks past empty rows of seats as he enters the new parliament building. Photo: PIB/AFP via Getty Images.
At least 19 opposition parties missed the event, which coincided with the Hindu nationalist ideologue's birth anniversary.
In a statement Wednesday, the opposition parties said Modi's decision to open the building was a “serious insult for Indian democracy as the government “disqualified, removed and silenced” opposition legislators by passing a “contradictory law” without much debate.
The triangular shaped new building built at an estimated cost of $120 million (97 million pounds sterling), is part of a $2.8 billion redevelopment of British-era offices and residences in central New Delhi.
The plan draws up heavy criticism from opposition politicians, architects and heritage experts.