Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building on Thursday and described the event as a 'milestone in India's democratic history', asserting that if the old Parliament House gave direction to the country post-independence, the new one would be a witness to the making of an 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat'.
Addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone and performing the ground-breaking ceremony, Modi urged the people to take a pledge to keep 'India First' and asserted that every decision should increase the strength of the country, whose interest is paramount.
Asserting that Indian democratic traditions predate the Magna Carta, a 13th century document many scholars consider as the framework for a modern republic, the prime minister said that the day is not far when the world will term India 'mother of democracy' if Indians extol the country's democratic history with confidence.
"It is a very historic day. Today is a milestone in India's democratic history... We, the people of India, will together build this new building of Parliament," Modi said, adding that the new building will be an inspiration when India will celebrate 75 years of its independence.
The making of the new Parliament building is an example of co-existence of the new with the old, he said.
"I can never forget the moment in my life when I had the opportunity to come to Parliament House for the first time in 2014 as an MP.
"Before stepping in, I bowed and saluted this temple of democracy," Modi said.
"The current Parliament building played an important role in pre and post independent India. The first government of an independent India was formed here and the first sitting of Parliament took place here, our Constitution was drafted here, our democracy was re-established here. Babasaheb Ambedkar and others, after deep deliberations in the Central Hall, gave us a Constitution," he said.
Union ministers, ambassadors, leaders of different parties, including former Lok Sabha speaker Shivraj Patil and representatives of the Yuvanaja Shramika Rythu Congress, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Biju Janata Dal and the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, were in the audience.
However, some opposition leaders gave the event a miss.
BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said it was a matter of pride to be present at the foundation stone-laying ceremony.
Businessman Ratan Tata, whose group firm has got the contract to construct the new building, was also there.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson Harivansh read out the statements from President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.
Modi said the laws made inside this building and the debates that took place are a part of the country's democratic heritage, but it is important to accept reality as this building is now nearly 100 years old and has been upgraded from time to time. But now it needs rest, the prime minister said.
If the old Parliament House gave direction to India post-independence, the new building would be a witness to the making of an 'Aatmanirbhar Bharat' (self-reliant India), he said.
"If work was done to fulfil the needs of the country in the old Parliament building, then the aspirations of 21st century India will be fulfilled in the new building," Modi said.
He said it was predicted that democracy will fail in India, however, today Indians can proudly say that the country has not only proved those predictions wrong, but also the 21st century world is seeing India surge ahead as an important democratic power.
Noting that India's democracy is a system developed through centuries of experience, Modi said usually when democracy is discussed elsewhere, it is about election procedures, governance and administration, but democracy in India is a value and a way of life.
He asserted that democracy in India has always been a means of resolving differences along with governance. Different views and different perspectives empower a vibrant democracy, Modi noted.
In his address, Prime Minister Modi quoted Guru Nanak to underscore the importance of dialogue and noted that the Sikh Guru had said that interaction should continue till eternity.
"Our democracy has moved forward with the goal that there is always room for differences so long as it is not entirely disconnected from the process," Modi said.
He stressed that policies and politics may vary but all must be for the service of the public and there should be no differences in this ultimate goal.
"Whether debates occur within the Parliament or outside, the determination towards national service and dedication towards national interest should be reflected in them constantly," he said.
The prime minister asserted that every member who enters Parliament is accountable to the public as well as the Constitution.
Modi said there are no rituals as such to consecrate this temple of democracy. It is the representatives of the people who come to this temple that will consecrate it, Modi added.
He asked every one to take the pledge that there will be no greater interest for them than national interest, their concern for the country will be more than their own personal concerns, nothing will be more important to them than the unity and integrity of the country, and that dignity and fulfilment of the Constitution will be the biggest goal of their life.
Modi said many new things were being done in the new Parliament House, which will increase the efficiency of MPs, and modern methods will be incorporated in the work culture.
Priests from the Sringeri Math Karnataka did the rituals for the 'bhoomi pujan' at the new Parliament building site and it was followed by a 'sarva dharma prarthana' (inter-faith prayer).
The new building, whose construction is likely to be completed in 2022, will have an area of 64,500 square metres.
It will also have a grand Constitution Hall to showcase India's democratic heritage, a lounge for members of Parliament, a library, multiple committee rooms, dining areas and ample parking space.