Opposition to the Central Vista Project (CVP) being developed by the GOVERNMENT OF INDIA in the NATIONAL CAPITAL continues unabated. I have capitalized some words to emphasize that the government is building something for the nation. It is not an individual or a party doing something for personal gain, as the individual (Modi) or party (BJP) will not be in power permanently. Does the Congress believe that he/they will? Or is their concern that they will not be able to name it “Sonia Gandhi Vista”, like they have named at least 445 medical/educational institutions, roads, buildings, stadiums, airports, ports, sanctuaries, parks, schemes, awards, trophies, tournaments, and fellowships after Nehru, Indira or Rajiv Gandhi?
What is the CVP? By 2027, India will have the more modern government infrastructure than any other nation’s capital.
The 919-acre area around the 2.9-km Rajpath is being redeveloped. Existing buildings of 42.6 lakh sq.ft., some built in the 1960s and 1970s, are being demolished. No heritage building designed by British architect Sir Edward Lutyens is being touched, contrary to misinformation being spread by vested interests. Several new buildings totalling ~1.89 crore sq.ft. will be built.
Here are images of the current and the proposed Master Plan. See how current buildings (top Pic)—90% of them built by Congress governments—are of haphazard shapes and sizes, and compare it to how well the new Master Plan is synchronized (bottom Pic).
Here are two aerial views. In the first image, Rashtrapati Bhawan can be seen on the top and the National War Memorial and India Gate at the bottom. In the second, you can see Connaught Place on the top right.
Although the CVP is budgeted at ₹13,450 crores, having been closely associated with the construction industry for 20 years, I estimate that the cost is likely to go up to ₹25,000 crores, due to many miscellaneous items not being budgeted, as well as cost escalations.
This investment (not an expenditure) will be spread over seven years, and not just during the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount being spent up to August 2022 is only ₹1,339 crores.
The first building being built is a four-storey 6.94 lakh sq.ft. triangular PARLIAMENT HOUSE, 36% larger than the existing 93-year-old building, with enhanced seating capacities of 888 in the Lok Sabha (LS) vs. 552 now and 384 in the Rajya Sabha (RS) vs. 245 now. The LS Hall will accommodate 1,224 MPs for a ‘joint’ sitting of both expanded houses.
Post 2026, the strengths of both houses are mandated to increase to reflect growth in population. This has nothing to do with Modi. The number of LS seats were increased (“delimitation”) to 494 in 1952, 522 in 1963, and 543 in 1973. Though there was supposed to be a delimitation exercise every 10 years, this did not happen after 1973. In 2002, through a Constitutional Amendment, it was decided that the next delimitation will be done in 2026 based on the 2021 census.
The existing building has several structural problems, is crammed, and cannot be expanded. Very few MPs have offices and there is no space for their staff. MPs of almost all parties have complained several times over the years.
The building is being readied for the 75th anniversary of Independence (15 August 2021); hence it cannot be delayed.
The LS and RS halls will have a desk in every MP’s seat (currently only in front rows), space for free movement, a touchscreen-based digital voting system, biometric dual authentication, and an intuitive multilingual graphical user interface. Each MP will have a 430 sq.ft. office with space for staff. There will also be a lounge and a dining room for MPs, a library, multiple committee rooms, and 1,100 car parks. Public will be allowed in the Constitution Hall to learn about India’s journey as a parliamentary democracy.
The building is being built by Tata Projects at a cost of ₹862 crores. It will be used by the MPs of all parties, not just by the BJP and its allies.
A CENTRAL VISTA AVENUE (see Pics below), with bridges over canals, pedestrian underpasses, wide footpaths, more green areas, benches, and tree-shaded public parking is being built by Shapoorji Pallonji at a cost of ₹477 crores. This is also being readied on a war-footing to host the Republic Day parade on January 26, 2022.
Tata Projects and Shapoorji Pallonji are not Gujarati companies. Both belong to the minority Parsi community, and are amongst India’s three largest construction companies.
The focus on Republic Day is the President and the Armed Forces. The Congress and shameless Leftist journalists are insulting these two institutions by opposing the project, or trying to get it delayed.
The CVP includes residential enclaves for the Vice President and the PM. Modi has been criticised for building a ‘grand new palace’ for himself.
‘Senior’ journalist Alpana Kishore wrote in Newslaundry, “Such self-indulgence may be common in dictatorships, but is inappropriate for a Republic. If we are in the Beijing–Moscow–Pyongyang axis where citizens are passive spectators, it is absolutely normal.”
I estimate that the PM’s residential complex will cost less than ₹500 crores, including special security measures such as a direct underground tunnel to the Parliament building. Is this too much for a permanent residence of the chief executive of the world’s largest democracy? Besides, the construction of the PM’s residential complex is not part of Phase 1.
Even if the NDA wins the 2024 general elections and Modi becomes PM again, he will give up the post soon after September 17, 2025, when he turns 75, as he has done for all his ministers. Therefore, at best, Modi will live in the new home for about two years.
Prime Minister Shastri chose 10 Janpath as his official residence, though Nehru had lived at Teen Murti Bhawan. Indira chose 1 Safdarjung Road. Rajiv Gandhi chose 7 Race Course Road (now 7 Lok Kalyan Marg). This was all OK as they were from the Congress?
Alpana wrote, “The biggest irony remains that a PM from the humblest of backgrounds should yearn for a house on Rajpath, no less, to endorse his vision of personal greatness and legacy. Would Macron demand and, more importantly, get a house on the Champs Elysées? Can even Trump order himself a second home on the [National] Mall?”
She didn’t do research or knew the truth but hid it? The French President’s residence Elysée Palace is located just 500 meters from the Champs-Élysées. He also has the use of other homes, including the Fort de Brégançon off the French Riviera and the La Lanterne, a hunting lodge in Versailles, 35 minutes from Élysée Palace.
Now let me come to Trump, who was POTUS (President of the United States) when she wrote the article. POTUS has a second home: the 200-acre Camp David country retreat. Though it’s 103-km from The White House, POTUS mostly flies there on three (and sometimes up to five) helicopters, the rest serving as decoys. The presidential fleet has 35 helicopters. The Leftist media’s favourite, Joe Biden ordered 23 new ones for ~₹36,600 crores.
Some in the media compare Modi with Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdoğan. In 2014, Erdoğan built a 1,000-room, 31 lakh sq.ft. palace for US$615 million (₹9,620 crore in 2021 prices based on Turkey’ inflation). The Indian PM’s new residence will cost less than 6% of that.
The CVP will have three buildings for the defence ministry and armed forces’ headquarters, and six buildings for other ministries and departments. All nine are labelled as Central Secretariat in the 2027 Master Plan image. The Conference Centre will be the largest government conference facility in the world.
There will be space for ~53,000 people, and basement parking for ~10,000 vehicles. With ~17,000 people in retained buildings, there will be ~70,000 physically connected GOI employees. An underground Metro and underground walkways will connect most buildings. Employee efficiency and output will greatly improve due to shorter distances and standardised modern infrastructure with more natural lighting and much improved air quality than in existing buildings, especially the ‘South and North Blocks’ designed by Lutyens.
South Block will be converted into a ‘India up to 1857’ Museum. North Block will become a ‘India since 1857’ Museum.
The GOI spends ~₹1000 crore per year rent and ~₹300 crore on security and travel between various ministry buildings. The investment will be recovered by saving these costs. There will also be some revenue from the museums. And what is the cost vs. benefit of improved efficiency?
The zone will be somewhat similar to the “National Mall” in Washington, D.C. (see Pic), which includes the White House, the U.S. Capitol (parliament), the Supreme Court, several other government buildings, museums, parks and monuments. Almost 2.2 domestic tourists visited the Mall in 2018. With India’s population ~4.2x of the US, imagine the tourism potential of the new Central Vista.
In April 2020, after Hindustan Times refused to publish an attack against the CVP (which supported Kishore’s article) by the so-called historian Ramachandra Guha, Guha got it published in anti-Modi website The Wire. Guha wrote, “I share her concerns … PM’s justification is that it was to mark … the 75th anniversary of independence. This is disingenuous, because past anniversaries had not called for such a spectacular extravaganza. Both the 25th and 50th anniversaries had been suitably marked, by a special session of Parliament.” Special Parliament sessions are suitable celebrations? Really??
Guha wrote, “Modi government’s redesign of Delhi brings to mind not so much living communist autocrats as it does some dead African despots. It is the sort of vanity project, designed to perpetuate the ruler’s immortality, that Felix Houphouet-Boigny of Ivory Coast and Jean Bédel-Bokassa of Central African Republic once inflicted on their own countries.” The term “vanity project” is still being used on TV debates today, by several opponents of Modi.
In 1988, Australia built a new Parliament. In 2001, Malaysia built Putrajaya. South Korea began Sejong City in 2007. In 2019, Indonesia announced a new capital. Thailand’s new ₹5,400 crore Parliament opened last month. Are they Ivory Coast or Central African Republic?
Chandra Babu Naidu started building a new capital city at Amravati (see Pic) for Andhra Pradesh at an estimated cost of ₹55,000 crores before he was voted out in 2019.
In 2001, Rajasthan completed a new Assembly building. In 2005, the Congress government built a replica of the Assembly building in Bengaluru, which didn’t have enough space (same logic doesn’t apply to Parliament?). In 2012, Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy (a Congress partner) built a new Assembly building for almost ₹500 crores (₹833 cr. today) in Belagavi. Why a second capital?
In 2010, DMK (a Congress partner) started building a new Assembly building for ₹1,200 crores (₹2366 cr. today) in Chennai. The foundation stone was laid by Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh and over ₹3 crores were spent on a temporary dome.
In 2013, Mamata Banerjee started a ₹350 crore (₹534 cr.) project to revamp the Colonial-era Writers’ Building. In 2016, Akhilesh Yadav (a Congress partner) inaugurated a ₹602 crore (₹816 cr.) new Secretariat at Lucknow. In 2019, Naveen Patnaik inaugurated a new Secretariat at Bhubaneswar. Telangana’s KCR is building new Assembly and Secretariat buildings for ₹617 crores.
All of these are justified, right, because they are all non-BJP governments?
During COVID-19, two Congress states announced new buildings. In August 2020, the Chhattisgarh government announced a 5.65 lakh sq.ft. Assembly building, almost as big as the country’s new Parliament. In May 2021, the Shiv Sena–NCP–Congress government in Maharashtra floated a ₹900 crore tender for a MLA hostel. Not only is this more expensive than the new Parliament, the contractor says the cost will shoot up further. The tender cost is >1.4x the cost of a 5-star hotel. I won’t be surprised if ₹300+ crores comes to the coffers of Shiv Sena–NCP–Congress politicians.
Architect and conservation consultant AG Krishna Menon wrote in The Print on March 8, 2020, that BJP wants to ‘erase’ colonial heritage. Why should India keep ‘colonial’ heritage 75 years after Independence? Is the British Raj something for us to cherish? He also inferred that the CVP does not take care of (ecological) conservation. There is no basis for this.
The Central Vista will free up ~75 acres for public use. In addition, a 50-acre Biodiversity Arboretum has been planned behind Rashtrapati Bhavan. The CVP area has 4,642 trees—1,412 shall be retained and 3,230 transplanted to the upcoming 884-acre Eco Park at Badarpur. No tree is being cut. The green cover in the Central Vista will increase, with a net gain of 563 trees. A total of 36,083 trees will be planted in Delhi, including 32,330 trees in the Eco Park. All buildings will have access to the underground metro with pedestrian subways and underground parking. Thousands of daily vehicle trips between scattered offices will be reduced. All this will reduce the carbon footprint.
The argument of not enough money being spent on COVID-19 relief is baseless. The GOI or the RBI have sanctioned ₹35,000 crores for vaccination, over ₹27.45 lakh crores for other relief measures, ₹38,873 crores for state disaster relief (in 2020 and 2021), and ₹50,000 crores for ramping up Covid-related healthcare infrastructure and services. This is 115 times my estimated cost for the CVP.
Only ₹1339 crore is being spent on the CVP till August 2022, which is just 0.047% of the money being spent on COVID-19 relief measures. Phase-1 has created employment for over 2,500 people, which is needed, isn’t it? AAP spokesperson Reena Gupta said that the Modi government should pay construction workers ₹5000 per month to stay at home. Let’s create a few lakh more dole-seekers.
This letter stated: “The Parliament building was constructed in the 1920s … Over the decades on account of ageing and over use the building has started showing the signs of distress at various places. The sitting capacity of LS and RS is likely to go up after 2026 … necessary to have a new LS chamber with larger sitting capacity.”
“We badly need a parliament building. This one simply isn’t functional and is outdated,” said then rural development minister Jairam Ramesh.
Yet the Congress is attacking Modi for the same thing. This exposes yet another duplicity of the Congress. Do you know why?
The Sonia government wanted to build a ~3.75 lakh sq.ft. (area unconfirmed) Parliament building at an estimated cost of ₹600 crores in 2012, or ₹16,000/sq.ft. (₹26,656/sq.ft. crores at today’s cost). The Modi government is building a 6.94 lakh sq.ft. building @ ₹862 crores, or ₹12,420/sq.ft. So the Congress has missed a big opportunity.
Secondly, many buildings that the GOI currently leases and which may become useless after the CVP is complete, are owned by Congress leaders.
Thirdly, the 2026 delimitation will reduce proportional seats in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, where the Congress still has some existence. Therefore, Congress’s seat share in the Lok Sabha is likely to go further down.