EA huge construction crane towers behind his back as Narendra Modi stands over the rooftops of New Delhi. Video footage shows the Indian Prime Minister moving two levers. A falling curtain reveals a huge statue. It shows a large version of the Indian national coat of arms: four proud lions enthroned on an ornate lotus base. The symbol goes back to the so-called Ashoka Pillar, which the ruler of the same name built in the 3rd century BC, and is one of the national emblems of the Indian state.
With a height of 6.5 meters and a weight of nine and a half tons, the bronze image is more massive than the original. In the eyes of some Internet users, the wildcats also look much more aggressive than their ancient counterparts. “Furious lions with bared fangs! This is Modi’s new India!” writes lawyer and Modi critic Prashant Bhushan on Twitter.
The lions can be found on the new parliament building in the Indian capital. The relatively small area in the megacity of Delhi, where the heart of Indian democracy beats with parliament, government offices and the presidential seat, has been a construction site in recent months. About five meters high, green sheet metal walls towered into the air. The concrete mixers turned behind metal barriers, the excavators dug pits, construction workers in safety vests and hard hats laid the foundations. Large concrete pipes lay on an area. The promenade around the famous India Gate, where tourists usually have their photos taken, was a sandy desert.
The new parliament building is now 70 percent complete. It should be ready in November and thus in time for the MPs to be able to meet in the new four-story building during the winter session.
The promenade at India Gate, on the other hand, will already shine in new splendor on the 75th anniversary of India’s independence on August 15th. The areas have been planted, and a fountain is bubbling up on a surface of water. Local residents will also benefit from this. But the gigantic renovation project, also known in Delhi as Central Vista, drew criticism from the start.
Affected are the old colonial buildings that are located along a three-kilometer stretch from the boulevard Rajpath to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the India Gate: in addition to parliament and government buildings, the national archive, in which a treasure trove of historical documents is stored. They will not be demolished, but will be renovated and partially converted. In addition to the parliament, the offices and residence of the prime minister and a central secretariat for administration will be completely rebuilt.
Critics fear that part of India’s historical heritage will be lost or at least devalued. The planned city of New Delhi dates back to the British decision in 1912 to move the capital of the Crown Colony further inland from Calcutta. They thought they could control the subcontinent better from there and appreciated the proximity to the cooler retreat areas at the foot of the Himalayas and the army bases there.