Indian opposition criticises government for new dress code for parliament staff with ‘election symbol’

Parliament staff to don jackets, sarees and shirts with ‘Indian touch’

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Wednesday 13 September 2023 13:27 BST
<p>View of India’s new parliament building in New Delhi</p>

View of India’s new parliament building in New Delhi

New uniforms for the Indian parliament staff adorned with prints of lotus flowers have kicked up a political row just months ahead of the general election.

Opposition parties have accused prime minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of adding lotus motifs – the party's election symbol to the staff outfits.

The lotus also happens to be the country's national flower.

The new uniforms with an "Indian touch" include sarees for women, khaki-coloured pants, printed shirts and purple-coloured Nehru jackets (hip-length tailored coats with a mandarin collar), which are named after the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The parliament staff, including chamber attendants, officers, security personnel, marshals and drivers, will don the new attires from 18 September during a five-day special session of the parliament that will take place at the new building.

Manickam Tagore, the chief whip in the Lok Sabha for Indian National Congress, questioned the government's intent of adding lotus symbols.

"Why is the government not ready to put tiger in the dress because the tiger is the national animal. Why they are not ready to put peacock, which is the national bird in the dresses (sic)," the MP asked in a post on X.

He said that the lotus symbol was added because it was the Hindu nationalist BJP's election symbol.

"How cheap we are ... this kind of pettiness is not right. Hope the BJP grows up and not make the parliament a one-sided partisan thing," he added.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesperson Clyde Crasto joined the Congress in condemning the government. “By printing the ‘lotus’ symbol on uniforms of Parliament staff, the BJP is trying to turn our ‘temple of democracy’ into a political arena,” he said on Tuesday.

“The BJP is misusing the parliament for personal propaganda. The August House belongs to the people of India, not to a political party,” he added.

A headgear for the marshals resembling a traditional turban from the northeastern state of Manipur has also been criticised by the opposition members.

“Failure to protect lives of tribals & women in Manipur is compensated by introducing a headgear in a uniform,” Trinamool Congress MP Saket Gokhale said, referring to the ongoing conflict in the state. “Not just insensitive but also shows how little Modi cares beyond his self PR,” he said.

The small state of 3.7 million people bordering Myanmar has been wracked by ethnic violence since early May between the majority Meitei group and the tribal Kuki-Zo minority groups. More than 180 people have been killed and over 60,000 displaced.

Mr Modi had refrained from commenting on the violence till a video showing two women being paraded naked by a mob went viral in July.

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