The Congress party has created a hullabaloo to stall the ongoing construction work at the Central Vista project by the Modi government, even though the idea was originally conceptualised by the grand-old party. Amidst the ongoing political tug-of-war surrounding the project, a 2018 tweet by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has gone viral online.
In the tweet dating May 22, 2018, Shashi Tharoor shared pictures of his visit to the new Malaysian Parliament and had sought for upgrading the Indian Parliament. “Visited the Malaysian Parliament & entered the empty chamber of the Lower House. Felt a pang of envy: Each MP has their own nameplate, plush leather swivel chair, laptop &mike. We in the LokSabha sit crammed on benches with no leg room to stand, let alone swivel. Time for an upgrade!” he had tweeted 3 years ago.
Although the Congress Parliamentarian from Kerala had lamented in 2018 about the lack of adequate space in the current Parliament, he and his party members were seen rubbishing the idea of the Central Vista Project. On May 9 this year, Shashi Tharoor had shared an article written by Kapil Komireddi titled, “Modi’s ghastly Delhi dream.” The Congress MP said, “A coruscating read: Kapil’s erudite and well-researched takedown of the govt’s grand central vista scheme.”
Several netizens called out the Congress leader for his doublespeak and changing his stance out of political opportunism. A fired-up Tharoor took to Twitter to try and undo the damage caused due to his U-turn. He claimed, “I see lots of Central Vista apologists making hay out of my 2018 tweet.” His tweet further read, “The Parliament upgrade I sought could have been achieved by converting the Central Hall of the present Parliament into the Lok Sabha with all the facilities I admired in the Malaysian one. No new building needed.”
Why the Central Hall of the current Parliament cannot be upgraded as proposed by Shashi Tharoor?
In ‘defence’ of his earlier tweet, the Congress Parliamentarian had claimed that the Central Hall of the existing Parliament could have been upgraded to accommodate the facilities of a new and modern parliament, like the Malaysian one he was so envious about. However, nothing can be further from the truth. It must be mentioned that the present Central Hall of the Indian Parliament is about 678 square metres while the Lower House (Lok Sabha) Hall in the new building will be 1340 square metres.
Moreover, the Central Hall of the Parliament is used to hold joint sessions of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. While Lok Sabha has 552 seats, the current Rajya Sabha has about 245 seats. In total, the total strength of Parliamentarians stands at 797. However, the Central Hall has a sitting capacity of just 430 seats, which is lower than the sitting capacity of even the Lok Sabha. Given that the Central Hall is just 679 square metres, it is not possible to extend its sitting capacity further or equip it with facilities that Shashi Tharoor had sought.
To add salt to the wound, the major problem arises while conducting joint sessions of the Parliament. With a sitting capacity of just 430 seats, not all 800 members can participate in a joint session discussion. As such, temporary chairs and benches are arranged so as to ensure that the other members could sit. For one of the fastest-growing economies of the world, this is rather an undignified sight. While Shashi Tharoor tried to come up with a credible defence of his 2018 tweet to appease his masters in Congress, his justification is rather juvenile and flawed.