Tributes Paid to India’s Parliament at Special Session

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Indian lawmakers, including PM Narendra Modi, have paid tribute to the country’s old parliament ahead of a move to a new building.

The MPs were speaking on the first day of a week-long special parliament session called by the government.

Mr Modi had inaugurated the new parliament building in May but no business was held there till now.

On Tuesday, the session will shift to the new building after an event to celebrate the old parliament’s legacy.

The special session is being held amid criticism from opposition leaders who claim that the government has not disclosed all the business that could come up during the week.

According to the government, eight bills have been listed for discussion during the session – but this agenda could be changed or expanded during the course of the week.

Opposition leaders have questioned whether a special session was necessary to discuss these bills when MPs are set to meet later this year for the winter session of parliament.

Indian lawmakers usually meet for regular business thrice a year in parliament – a budget session, a monsoon session and a winter session.

On Monday, Mr Modi began the special session by commemorating the legacy of India’s parliament since 1947, when the country became independent from British rule. The government has held several events to mark the 75th anniversary of India’s independence.

Mr Modi said that leaving the old parliament was an “emotional moment” as the building was filled with special memories and that the structure would continue to inspire future generations.

“The biggest achievement of this parliament is that it has kept people’s faith in democracy alive,” he said in a speech where he also mentioned India’s successful Moon landing and hosting of the G20 summit.

Some opposition leaders shared their memories of the old parliament while also taking pot-shots at Mr Modi’s government, accusing it of not answering questions and targeting political rivals.

Ahead of the special session, Mr Modi had said that its duration may be “short” but that it would include “historic decisions”.

Special sessions are not that common – according to legislative expert Chakshu Roy, the government has sometimes convened them “for specific occasions, like commemorating parliamentary or national milestones”.

The announcement of the session last month had sparked criticism from opposition leaders, who questioned the government’s “secrecy” over the agenda. It also sparked intense speculation, with some commentators saying that the government might call early elections or even change the country’s name from India to Bharat (after a controversy erupted over a possible name change).

Others have said that the government may bring in a historic bill that will reserve seats for women in state legislatures and parliament – on Monday, some opposition lawmakers protested outside parliament, asking for this bill to be introduced.

But the government has not confirmed any of this yet.

Last week, after weeks of criticism from the opposition, it released a “tentative agenda” for the session which listed four bills for debate, including a controversial one that will change how India’s chief election commissioner is appointed.

Opposition parties have objected to the bill, calling it “undemocratic” and saying that it will reduce the independence of the Election Commission and its officers. However, this bill was not in the list of items that the government gave to opposition leaders at an all-party meeting on Sunday.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation