19 parties are opposing the inauguration of PM Modi's new Parliament building, while 25 parties are supporting it. (File)

During the UPA-II era, there was a broad consensus among all political parties that the old Parliament building, built during the colonial period, served its purpose and there was an urgent need to construct a new building. At that time, several senior Congress leaders, including ministers like the then Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Jairam Ramesh, supported the resolution. While UPA-II was in the grip of policy inefficiency, the idea of a new Parliament building had the same fate as some other projects of national importance.

When Narendra Modi became prime minister in 2014, those who were actively pushing for a new structure for both houses of Parliament and its growing needs conveniently forgot about it. During his first term (2014-19), Modi had other priorities. It is possible that he wanted a first-hand experience of working in the old Parliament house built in 1927, to understand what a new structure is needed for the temple of democracy.

In December 2020, when the country was recovering socially and economically from the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic, the government announced the Central Vista project, of which the new Parliament building was an integral part. The Congress-led opposition boycotted its foundation stone laying ceremony by PM Modi. He had his own ideas about why Modi was doing this. He questioned why this amid Covid restrictions. In doing so, they forgot how Modi, in a meeting with chief ministers nine months ago, went from the mantra of 'Jaan hai to jahaan hai' to 'jaan bhi aur jahaan bhi' and then to 'opportunity in disaster'.

Some people went to the courts on various excuses to stop the project but the courts rejected it. The Delhi High Court declared it a project of 'national importance'.

Anyone who has visited New Delhi and driven around the India Gate Circle has witnessed the transformation from Rajpath to Duty Path.

In a record time of less than two-and-a-half years, the construction of the new Parliament building was completed, which a section of BJP leaders align with their motto — if they lay the foundation stone of a project, they also ensure its inauguration. Scale and speed are considered hallmarks of the Modi government.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this building built in the Amrit Mahotsav of independence is in essence an expression of New India. There couldn't have been a better time to make a bigger and bolder statement about the collective will of our people. History tells us that different countries have expressed their strengths, be it economic or political, at different stages through ideas, dreams and aspirations through town planning, architecture, building and monuments about who you are, what you are, what you stand for.

Just as generations later we know that the old Parliament building was designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker and inaugurated by Lord Irwin. In the next century or centuries, generations to come will know that it was built and opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The early photos and videos have already captured the popular imagination.

Congress has a problem with this. His objection to PM Modi inaugurating it and President Draupadi Murmu not doing it is a public sham. The parties that signed the boycott letter have never been generous to President Murmu, neither when she was running for president last year nor after being elected to the highest constitutional post. The AAP and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi boycotted his maiden address to both houses of Parliament on January 31. Senior Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury called her the 'President'.

Their problem is with the person, their names and their position – Narendra Modi. It has been nine years, but the Congress and its allies and support system do not seem to have accepted the fact that Modi is still the prime minister and his popularity levels at home and abroad have not waned. It is not just the Central Vista and Parliament House, the Congress and its allies have opposed every project of national importance that Modi has launched or inaugurated. Statue of Unity, War Memorial, Prime Minister's Museum, Ram Temple, Kashi Vishwanath Dham and this list is constantly growing.

There is now Sengol to add to their problems. The inauguration of the new Parliament building could not have been completed without the last-minute services of PM Modi without the rediscovery and installation of 'Sengol' next to the Lok Sabha Speaker's chair. The Speaker, though elected on a ruling party ticket, is considered the holder of fair status and the custodian of the Parliament complex.

Home Minister Amit Shah had explained about the specially prepared Golden Sengol in his press conference two days ago. It was presented to Viceroy Lord Mountbatten and then Prime Minister-designate Jawaharlal Nehru on August 14, 1947, as a symbol of transfer of power in a Tamil tradition dating back to the ancient Chola period. However, for some reason, Nehru and the Congress erased it from public and institutional memory. Sengol was called the "golden walking stick gifted to Nehru" and was sent to the Congress' first family Anand Bhawan museum in Allahabad.

During the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, when the country was celebrating the events related to its freedom struggle and unsung heroes, someone wrote and spoke about Sengol, drawing PM Modi's attention. It is felt that Amit Shah's media conference on the subject a few days before the inauguration was aimed at initiating a wider debate on the issue. The Congress reacted as anticipated and questioned the stated importance of Sengol. Others called it a Hindu symbol and a step towards making India a Hindu rashtra or an expression of the Modi monarchy and the like. All this gives Modi's social support group points of debate.

Since Sengol is associated with ancient Tamil culture and pride, the DMK's position on this issue also becomes a bit strange. For once, the DMK has remained silent on the issue of real or perceived Tamil pride.

If 19 parties are opposing the inauguration of PM Modi's new Parliament building, then Modi has the support of 25 parties. Mayawati has openly supported Draupadi Murmu's candidature in the presidential election, pointing to the Congress's vocal opposition.

By questioning Modi's credentials for inaugurating the new Parliament building and deciding to boycott the event, the Congress has raised several questions for itself. Why did Sonia Gandhi inaugurate the newly constructed assembly buildings during the UPA regime? Why did Rajiv Gandhi lay the foundation stone of parliament library building in 1987? Why did Indira Gandhi inaugurate the Parliament Annexe building in 1975 and why did the President not? If Motilal Nehru was present when Lord Irwin inaugurated the Parliament House in 1927, is his family boycotting the inauguration of the All India Parliament created to mark the beginning of a new India?

They seem to have failed to draw lessons from recent history that negativity and hatred towards anything and everything associated with Modi will be of no use – the 2014 and 2019 election results are examples of this. Going back to 2009, where people punished UPA allies who were unnecessarily harassing Manmohan Singh and the Congress. In that election, people were not generous towards the BJP because the party could not present a positive agenda.

Rahul Gandhi and his team might ponder over this – is it the right way to say so many negative things on an issue of such national importance, which they call a "shop of love"?

Sanjay Singh is a Delhi-based senior journalist.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author.