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Congress slams govt over relocation of statues in Parliament complex, calls it ‘unilateral’ move | India News

The Congress on Sunday slammed the move to relocate statues within the Parliament premises as “arbitrary and unilateral”, with party chief Mallikarjun Kharge saying such decisions made without proper discussion are against the rules and traditions of Parliament.

The opposition party has claimed that the idea behind relocating the statues of Mahatma Gandhi, B R Ambedkar and Chhatrapati Shivaji among others is to ensure they are not in a prominent place where the MPs could conduct peaceful and democratic protests.

Rajya Sabha chairperson and Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Sunday inaugurated the ‘Prerna Sthal’ in the Parliament complex which now houses these statues of national icons and freedom fighters that were earlier at different places on the premises.

While the Congress criticised the decision to remove the statues from their existing place, the Lok Sabha secretariat said their earlier placement had made it difficult for the visitors to see them properly.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla also told reporters that discussions were held from time to time with different stakeholders on the issue and added that “there is no need to indulge in politics on this”.

In a statement on the relocation of statues of major leaders in the Parliament House Complex, Congress president Kharge said removing the statues arbitrarily, without any consultation, violates the basic spirit of democracy. “The statues of many great leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, have been removed from their prominent places in the Parliament House Complex and relocated to a separate corner. Removing these statues arbitrarily, without any consultation, violates the basic spirit of our democracy,” he said.

There are about 50 such statues or busts throughout the entire Parliament House, he noted. “The statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were situated in prominent locations and of other major leaders at appropriate locations after due deliberation and consideration. Each statue and its location across the Parliament House complex holds immense value and significance,” he said.
Kharge stressed that the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in a meditative posture located right in front of the old Parliament Building held immense significance for India’s democratic polity.

“Members paid their respects at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi imbibing within themselves the spirit of Mahatma. It is at this place that members often conducted peaceful and democratic protests, drawing strength from their presence,” he said.

The statue of Babasaheb Ambedkar too had been placed at a vantage point conveying the powerful message that Babasaheb is extolling the generations of parliamentarians to steadfastly hold on to values and principles enshrined in the Constitution of India, Kharge said.
“Incidentally, during my student days in the mid-60s, I was in the forefront, demanding the installation of a statue of Babasaheb in the precincts of the Parliament House,” he said.

“Such concerted efforts eventually resulted in the installation of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue at the place where it had hitherto been placed. “The prior placement of Babasaheb statue also facilitated the seamless movement of people paying their tributes to him on his birth and death anniversaries,” he said.

All this has now been brought “to naught in an arbitrary and unilateral manner”, Kharge said. He pointed out that there is a dedicated panel on installing portraits and statues of national leaders and MPs in the Parliament House Complex – “Committee on the Installation of Portraits and Statues of National Leaders and Parliamentarians in the Parliament House Complex – which includes MPs from both Houses.

However, the committee has not been reconstituted since 2019, he said. “Such decisions made without any proper discussion and deliberation with relevant stakeholders are against the rules and traditions of our Parliament,” Kharge said.

Ahead of the inauguration of ‘prerna sthal’, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said that according to the Lok Sabha website, Parliament’s Committee on Portraits and Statues last met on December 18, 2018 and it was not even reconstituted during the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024) which also functioned for the first time without the Constitutional post of Deputy Speaker.

“Today, a major reconfiguration of statues in the Parliament complex is being inaugurated. Clearly it is a decision taken by the ruling regime unilaterally,” he said.

“Its sole objective is NOT to have statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar–traditional sites of peaceful, legitimate and democratic protests–right next to where Parliament actually meets,” Ramesh alleged in a post on X.

The Mahatma Gandhi statue has thus been displaced not just once but twice, he said.

Ramesh added that the Ambedkar Jayanti celebrations will not have the same scale and significance in the Parliament complex, given that his statue no longer occupies a distinctive place.

Addressing reporters here, Birla asserted that discussions were held from time to time with different stakeholders on the relocation of statues as such decisions were within the purview of the Office of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

“None of the statues have been removed, they have been relocated. There is no need to indulge in politics on this,” the Lok Sabha Speaker said when asked about the opposition criticism of the relocation of the statues. “From time to time, I have been discussing these issues with different stakeholders. People were of the view that having these statues at one place will help disseminate information about their lives and achievements in a better way,” Birla said.

The Lok Sabha secretariat has said the ‘Prerna Sthal’ has been constructed so that the dignitaries and other visitors coming to the Parliament House Complex could conveniently see and pay tributes to these statues in one place. “An action plan has been made to make the life stories and messages of these great Indians available to the visitors through new technology,” it said.

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