Tracking a momentous transition into the new temple of democracy

On Tuesday morning, with aspiration and apprehension, nostalgia and trepidation, the country’s lawmakers walked into the pristine maze of hallways in the new home of Indian democracy.

A view of the new Parliament building. (PTI)

As they crossed the corridor that separates the new Parliament from the old, they took a step into history. They transitioned from the iconic circular building designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker that for several decades captured every pulse of the national essence to a triangular edifice designed to blend with the old sandstone structure.

The moment allowed MPs, some of whom worked in the old complex for decades and some for less than a full term, to coalesce in recollecting nuggets from the past and exchange notes about landmark incidents that shaped the country’s polity.

Senior lawmakers were seen regaling their audience — visitors, mediapersons and their younger colleagues — about conversations that flowed in the Central Hall and the bonhomie that acted as a balm after acrimonious, heated exchanges on the floor of the house. And yet, neither the past nor ideological differences tethered several of India’s parliamentarians from showering praise on the grand new structure.

In the Rajya Sabha, the media gallery overlooking the opposition benches drew lighthearted comments, with a leader quipping that the media was clubbed with the Opposition. “I am taking it in with wide-eyed wonder…” chuckled a lawmaker, not wishing to be named. The lawmaker was later seen ribbing a minister about the “plush” new room allocated to him that offers a view of the old building and a partially enclosed corridor to “soak in the scenes”.

It was a busy day for the security personnel and the secretariat staff who donned the hat of guides, patiently helping lawmakers find their way to their respective houses, and herding visitors to the galleries to watch the proceedings. Since, the highlight of the day was the introduction of the women’s reservation bill, women outnumbered men in the visitors’ galleries.

Occasionally there was a flutter when visitors craned their necks to catch a glimpse of a certain film star or a popular leader. The cameras were ready, not prepared to miss a chance to catch VIPs in a frame that would be instantly iconic. But once House proceedings began, it was business as usual.

Heated exchanges between the government and the opposition, speeches laced with barbs and sarcasm and unmissable camaraderie as opponents across the aisle made their way out, posing for selfies, exchanging pleasantries.

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