Sitharaman appeals to oppn. parties to rethink on boycott, says Sengol is a civilisational symbol
CHENNAI — Asserting that power transfers never happen merely at the shake of hands, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday appealed to opposition parties to reconsider their decision to boycott the dedication of the new Parliament building scheduled on May 28, saying it is a “temple of democracy.”
Addressing reporters here, she said 20 “aadeenams” (pontiffs) from Tamil Nadu have been invited for the inauguration, where the ‘Sengol’ will be installed, as did in 1947 to symbolise the power transformation from the British. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the new Parliament building on Sunday.
Sitharaman addressed a press conference at the Raj Bhavan here in the company of TN Governor RN Ravi, his Telangana and Nagaland counterparts, Tamilsai Soundararajan and La Ganesan, respectively, Union Minister L Murugan and TN Minister PK Sekar Babu.
The ruling DMK in Tamil Nadu, one among the 19 opposition parties in the Centre that are boycotting the inauguration, dubbed the Sengol (sceptre) a symbol of monarchy and insisted it had nothing to do with democracy.
Responding to the opposition taking exception to the inauguration by PM Modi, instead of President Droupadi Murmu, Sitharaman said in a veiled attack on the Congress that its former chief Sonia Gandhi had laid the foundation stone for the Chhattisgarh assembly building instead of the Governor of that state earlier.
It was strange that those who censured the President, now find themselves morally motivated, Sitharaman said.
“I am surprised by their allegation. These parties saw the President coming from a tribal background and took up a bitter campaign against her. Leaders of the opposition parties spoke ill of her and said she will be a rubber stamp and that she represents evil forces,” Sitharaman said.
“But the Prime Minister gave her due respect. Those who ran a bitter campaign then are now suddenly speaking for her,” the finance minister said.
Asked for her comments on the boycott of the inauguration by several political parties, she replied, “Parliament is a temple of democracy and these parties should reconsider their decision and participate.”
Telangana Governor Dr Tamilisai Soundararajan said certain political parties seem to have the habit of playing politics as per their convenience.
“I was not invited for the inauguration of the Assembly complex which was inaugurated by the Chief Minister (K Chandrasekar Rao). Some parties know how to play politics, when to invoke the name of governor or the chief minister, as per their convenience,” she added.
Sitharaman said the unveiling of the golden Sengol marks an important event in the history of Indian Parliamentary democracy.
“The Rajya Sabha is part of the Parliament complex and the Sengol will be placed in the Lok Sabha signifying an important event in the temple of democracy and also Tamil Nadu’s connection to the symbolic transfer of power through the Sengol,” she said.
“Never ever power transfers are done at the shake of hands. There are many things which go to make the events sanctified and the Sengol represents one such sanctifying event. This talks about the civilisational link,” she said.
On whether the embossment of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi images on the sceptre be accepted by people of all faiths, she said that when the British left India there were Christians and Muslims in the country. None had objected to those images when it was given to Lord Mountbatten and later handed over to the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Indonesia, a Muslim majority nation, for instance, has Ganesh and Lakshmi on their currency notes. They find nothing wrong to display their civilisational symbols,” she said and expressed hope that the Sengol too would find acceptance.
Sitharaman further said TN has a “big proud part” to the episode of handing over of the Sengol to Nehru, symbolising the power transfer from the British to the people of India in 1947.
This was done on the advice of the Tiruvavaduthurai adheenam after the late CR Rajagopalachary discussed it with the Shaivite pontiff following Nehru’s consultations with him.
As many as 20 ‘aadeenams’ from Tamil Nadu, including Tiruvavaduthurai, Perur and Madurai have been invited for the May 28 inaugural event, she said.
In Tamil, the word ‘Aadeenam’ refers to both a Shaivite monastery and the head of such a math.
“The pontiffs will attend the event, there will be Oduvars (scholars in Shaivite scriptures and hymns) who will recite the Thevaram. In 1947 also the Sengol was handed over to Nehru when othuvargal recited Kolaru Pathigam,” she said.
Meanwhile, the DMK lashed out at the government for the invitation to the pontiffs, asking if religious heads of other faiths have been invited.
DMK spokesperson and former MP TKS Elangovan said Sengol represents monarchy.
“Sengol is an identity of a monarchy. In a monarchy there was no sperate judicial system, the king was the chief justice, the king was head of defence, head of administration; king controls the entire nation. The king renders justice to his subjects,” he told PTI.
He said in a democracy there is no role for the Sengol.
“Sengol represents monarchy, it talks about the functioning of a monarch, how he should be upright in holding justice among his people. In 1947, some people gave Sengol to Pundit Nehru when India got independence. It is just a sympbol, a gift,” he added.
On the invitation extended to the 20 adheenams, he said “they are opening a Parliament inviting one religious group, let them answer that,” and claimed the Centre was “violating the Constitution. “