Opposition political parties, led by the Congress, have been fiercely critical of the Indian government’s Central Vista project which includes construction of a new Parliament building. The estimated cost of the project is Rs 13,450 crore.
The project includes construction of a common central secretariat, revamping of the 3-km Rajpath from Rashtrapati Bhavan to India Gate, a new Prime Minister's residence and office, and a new Vice President Enclave.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, one of the most vocal opponents of the project, has even gone to the extent of terming it a ‘’ and asked the Modi dispensation to use the project money instead on improving medical infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic to save people's lives.
“Countless dead bodies flowing in rivers; lines in hospitals up to miles; the right to life security is taken away! PM, take off those pink goggles that let you see nothing except for Central Vista,” Rahul tweeted in .
CPI (M) general secretary tweeted: “This is grotesque. No money for Oxygen and Vaccines as our brothers and sisters die waiting for a hospital bed to be cremated in parking lots BUT Modi will squander public money to feed his megalomaniac vanity. Stop this Crime.”
Reacting to a seeking a stay on the construction of Central Vista amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre has told the Delhi High Court that the PIL was just another attempt to stall the project that has been facing such attempts from the beginning on one pretext or another.
Opposition to the project is baseless
1. The Parliament houses members of all parties, so this project will benefit not only leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, but leaders across the political spectrum.
2. Stalling the project at this stage will lead to a further increase in costs and burden on the taxpayers.
3. The project is providing gainful employment to 1,000 workers (500 x 2 shifts) amidst the economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic.
4. Rahul is exhorting the prime minister to "put people's lives at the center - not your blind arrogance to get a new house!" India is not a kingdom. The prime minister is indirectly elected by the people’s representatives.
Today we have a prime minister from the BJP, tomorrow it could be from the Congress or any other party. It is not Modi’s personal property as is being alleged.
5. The current Parliament building is almost 100 years old and lacks the capacity to accommodate the increase in number of MPs to be based on future census.
There’s more to it than meets the eye
The new complex will have 888 seats in the Lok Sabha chamber and 384 seats in the Rajya Sabha chamber. The increase in seating capacity in Parliament has created a buzz around the ‘delimitation exercise’ due in 2026.
Delimitation is the act of redrawing boundaries of the Lok Sabha and Assembly segments to represent changes in population. The number of seats has remained more or less the same since the last exercise carried out in 1976 on the basis of the 1971 Census.
To ensure that the southern states – which promoted family planning – do not end up with a reduction in seats, the delimitation exercise was frozen till 2001 on grounds that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by then.
The latest Census has been postponed due to the pandemic. Hence, I have taken the 2019 state-wise voting population as the base.
The new capacity of 888 Lok Sabha members means that in absolute terms Uttar Pradesh is likely to witness the highest increase of 63 seats. In relative terms, it is likely to be Rajasthan, almost doubling to 48.
The Southern Region is likely to witness a decline of 2% in overall proportion of seats. This is likely to be gained by the Northern Region. And this is the root cause of the opposition.
States which will see highest increase in seats
Region wise distribution of Lok Sabha seats
Southern India is the only region which has been holding off the BJP till now. The BJP has minimal presence in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Karnataka is the only state where it is strong and is in power.
A decline in representation of the South will further benefit and strengthen the BJP, the Opposition fears.
The Opposition hopes that by pushing the construction of the new annexe/the Central Vista project, it may be able to further defer the delimitation exercise beyond 2026.
Then, the absence of adequate infrastructure to house the increase in the number of MPs could be used as a reason to delay the exercise.
The delimitation exercise is due in 2026, meaning the new framework is likely to be in place not before the 2029 general elections shows why the opposition to the Central Vista is baseless and is being carried out for political reasons.