Congress and other Opposition parties on Thursday questioned the timing and need of a new Parliament building amid the coronavirus pandemic and the farmers’ protest. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone earlier in the day.

The party’s spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala criticised the prime minister for the ceremony and “building a palace for himself” even as the farmers’ protest entered its 16th day. In a separate tweet, he said that the Parliament “is not mortar and stones”, but it imbibes the Constitution and represents values like democracy, equality and compassion. “What would a building built upon trampling of these values represent,” he asked.

Meanwhile, the Congress said that the “desperate desire to build bigger” is a mark of insecurity of not being able to live up to the leaders and governments of the past.

The party’s youth wing posted a video highlighting the estimated cost of the new building and questioned if it was a necessity at a time when the economy was struggling and thousands of people have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury took exception to Modi’s speech at the foundation laying ceremony, where he spoke about values and culture of democracy. Yechury accused the prime minister of indulging in “diabolic doublespeak” by attacking democracy and dissent in practice.

Opposition parties and former civil servants are among those who have severely criticised the Narendra Modi government for not cutting down on “luxuries” like the Central Vista project amid the coronavirus crisis. The Rs 20,000-crore venture aims to build a new Parliament and other central government offices in Lutyens’ Delhi. The government has justified its decision to build a new Parliament building, saying that the current one was “showing signs of distress and over-use”.

Despite Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, construction of the new Parliament building cannot begin immediately as the government on Monday assured the Supreme Court that it would not carry out any construction, demolition or felling of trees in the Central Vista area for now. This came after the top court had expressed displeasure at the government “aggressively” continuing with the redevelopment project while petitions challenging the project were yet to be decided.