Central Vista: Case of misplaced priorities, says Cong

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New Delhi, Jan 5 (PTI) Soon after the Supreme Court cleared the deck for the ambitious Central Vista project on Tuesday, the Congress said the project is not a legal issue but a case of misplaced priorities of 'an autocrat seeking to etch his name in the annals of history'.

The opposition party also described the project as 'a colossal waste of public money' in times of the coronavirus pandemic and an economic recession.

The Congress has been opposing the Central Vista project that involves the construction of a new Parliament building by 2022.

In a majority verdict, the Supreme Court upheld the environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use for the project on Tuesday.

The Central Vista revamp, announced in September 2019, envisages a new triangular Parliament building with a seating capacity of 900 to 1,200 MPs that is to be constructed by August 2022, when the country will be celebrating its 75th year of independence.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar, by a 2:1 majority, held that the grant of the environmental clearance and the notification for change in land use for the project was valid.

'The Rs 13,450 crore Central Vista Project is not a legalistic issue but a case of 'misplaced priorities' of a 'whimsical autocrat' seeking to etch his name in the annals of history with cement and mortar,' Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala wrote on Twitter.

Senior spokesperson of the party Anand Sharma said, 'We are living in strange times. No relief for the migrant labour, no Justice for India's farmers fighting for their rights in bitter cold, pouring rain, tear gas and braving lathis. As we approach 'Ganatantra Diwas' need to reflect on state of Republic.' Surjewala said it is ironical that in the times of a pandemic and an economic recession, the authorities in Delhi have Rs 14,000 crore for the Central Vista project and Rs 8,000 crore for buying aircraft for the prime minister.

'But the same BJP Government imposes cuts of Rs 37,530 Crore in allowances of 113 Lakh Armed Forces and Central Government employees and pensioners.

'PM must not forget that he has imposed cuts of Rs 11,000 Crore on 15 lakh soldiers and 26 lakh military pensioners,' he said.

'And the same BJP Government at the Centre has no time to provide 'heated tents and equipment' to our soldiers braving brazen Chinese incursions in Ladakh,' the Congress leader said in a series of tweets.

Sharma said, 'Saddened by Supreme court endorsement of Government's misplaced priorities during the Pandemic and clearing the Central vista project - an unnecessary and colossal waste of public money.' 'Grand building of brick and mortar do not strengthen Parliamentary democracy but only a healthy functioning parliament that upholds the Constitution and defends citizen's rights,' the deputy leader of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha said.

Another Congress spokesperson, Jaiveer Shergill, said, 'Hope Hon'ble Supreme Court along with giving green signal for New Parliament would have passed orders to ensure BJP follows norms of Parliamentary Democracy including holding of session to discuss laws, respect sanctity of Parliamentary committees & giving space to opposition.' PTI SKC RC