The foundation stone for the new Parliament was laid in October 2020 and the inauguration date set for October 2022. The deadline seemed a little ambitious given that Sir Herbert Baker took six years (1921 to 1927) to complete the building of origin. But the government worked on the premise that “Modi hai to mumkin hai (If it is Modi, it is possible)”. The deadline was later extended to December this year, with the assurance that the winter session of Parliament would be held in the new triangular structure. But there is every reason to believe that the completion date will be pushed back again, even though all parties involved – the CPWD, Tata Projects Ltd and the firm of architect Bimal Patel – are working under extreme pressure. Several unforeseen obstacles, apart from the COVID pandemic, have arisen. The contractors were constrained by the fact that they work next to the current Parliament Building, which is a heritage building. For example, the foundation site is rocky but the usual rock blasting method was prohibited and more cumbersome procedures had to be used. Much of the work that would normally have had to be done on site, such as the carving of the octagonal columns, had to be moved away, as the infrastructure of the old Parliament, such as electricity and internet, cannot even be temporarily disconnected because Parliament is still running from there.
In the checklist of tasks before the new Parliament is completed, soften the look of the Lions of Ashoka, the national emblem atop the four-story building. When Prime Minister Modi unveiled the bronze cast of the four lions in July, there was an outcry from the opposition who claimed the lions had been carved in an aggressive, angry mold with bared fangs, very different from the calm and peaceful gaze of the original Sarnath Ashoka pillar sculpture.
Even before the election was announced, the BJPunlike the Congress, preparations for the Gujarat Assembly elections have begun. Narendra Modi delegated the selection of candidates entirely to Amit Shah. BJP ticket seekers were pleasantly surprised to see the Union Home Secretary answer the phone calls personally. Saurashtra journalists were impressed with Shah’s accessibility during his visit to Somnath. The opposition could try to score points by questioning those responsible for the tragedy of the collapse of the Morbi bridge, who are not named in the SIT report. The politically well-connected Oreva Group would have taken on the bridge not for profit but as a social service and earmarked part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds. The actual maintenance of the bridge has been contracted out to others. The bridge was hastily reopened ahead of the Gujarati New Year due to political pressure from local MPs and others eager to oblige voters during the holiday season.
After taking office as the new president of Congress, Mallikarjun Kharge found there was no one to report to. Raoul Gandhi is always on his yatra and Sonia Gandhi spends more and more time outdoors delhi. Kharge visited the Congress headquarters at 24 Akbar Road and found that his office had been sealed since 2019, after Rahul resigned as president. Congress has a tradition that the president’s office is closed whenever the office is vacant for fear of encroachment. After ceremoniously unsealing the office, Kharge discovered to his dismay that the room had cobwebs and the couches were filthy. The furniture was sent for spring cleaning. Now that Kharge plans to sit in his office daily, general secretaries will have to follow suit and visit 24 Akbar Road more frequently. Former Congress Speakers had powerful aides such as RK Dhawan, V George and Ahmed Patel, to help them. Kharge is believed to be grooming Syed Naseer Hussain, whom he helped elect to the Rajya Sabha from Karnataka, to be his eyes and ears at the party.
Cambodia, host country of the next 40th Asian (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), was disappointed to learn that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not be attending the summit. Cambodians had hoped for the president Draupadhi Murmu as a replacement, but Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar will represent India instead. The diplomatic buzz is that Murmu will be limited to a limited number of international engagements. A new envoy who recently presented his credentials to the president was advised to provide a list of three or four topics he wanted to discuss in advance.