The new Parliament – into which India’s lawmakers will shift tomorrow – boasts a number of features, including an “automated system” to switch off a MP’s microphone at the end of time allotted for their speech, sources told NDTV Monday afternoon. Other features include a biometric security system and a smaller Well to reduce scope for opposition lawmakers’ protests, sources said.
The new Parliament will also be “paperless” – every MP will be given a tablet computer – and there will also be stricter entry norms for journalists. The building also has six gates – named after (some real, some mythological) creatures, including the elephant and Garuda, the eagle that is Vishnu’s mount.
The switch to an “automated system” comes amid allegations the government stops opposition leaders from speaking their piece by shutting off their microphones; these claims were most recently made last month, in Parliament’s previous session, when the opposition was demanding a parliamentary probe into the Hindenburg report alleging financial wrongdoing by the Adani Group.
Congress boss Mallikarjun Kharge – also Rajya Sabha Leader of the Opposition – underscored that and accused the government of “insulting” him. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party denied the allegation and cited a “technical fault”.
A video posted by the Congress showed no microphones for nearly 20 minutes; it was only restored when Speaker Om Birla urged MPs to maintain order and decorum. Sources said the BJP had also decided Congress MP Rahul Gandhi would not speak till he apologised for comments in London.
In March, Mr Gandhi claimed otherwise functioning microphones were often shut when opposition leaders stood up to speak. “Our mikes are not out of order… they are functioning but you still can’t switch them on. That has happened to me a number of times,” he said in London.
This morning Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened a five-day special session of Parliament with a speech that lasted 51 minutes and shuffled between jabs at the opposition and praise for his government, with mention also of the G20 summit and the Chandrayaan-3 Moon mission.
In his lengthy speech – which included multiple jabs at the opposition, including a comment about the ‘cash for votes’ scam during the Manmohan Singh government – the Prime Minister also recalled “bitter-sweet memories” associated with the old building, including the terror attack of 2001.
Parliament will shift to the new building after the lunch break on Tuesday.
A potentially explosive first day, however, seems unlikely given the bill amending terms of appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners has been withdrawn for now.
The bill had been listed for passage in the special session but the government has pulled it; sources have said amendments are being considered to a bill that demotes the status of the CEC and his panel members – from that equivalent of a Supreme Court judge to that of a cabinet secretary.
There are still, however, eight bills listed for consideration.
Meanwhile, PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah met senior union ministers ahead of a cabinet meeting this evening. BJP chief JP Nadda was also present at these interactions.