Puri Slams Congress Over Its Opposition to Central Vista Project

Union housing and urban affairs minister Hardeep Singh Puri hit out at the Congress party on Friday for its opposition to the Central Vista project, accusing it of double-standards and spreading “lies” to divert people’s attention from “monumental governance failures” in states ruled by it.

In a series of tweets, Puri also said the central government got its priorities right, rejecting allegations by the Congress and critics that the Rs 20,000-crore project should be halted in view of a raging second wave of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).

“Congress’s discourse on Central Vista is bizarre. Cost of Central Vista is about Rs 20,000 crore, over several years. GoI (the government of India) has allocated nearly twice that amount for vaccination! India’s healthcare budget for just this year was over ₹3 lakh crore. We know our priorities,” he said.

Puri came down heavily on what he called the Congress’s “hypocrisy” and said “Congress leaders wrote about the need for a new parliament” during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s rule at the Centre.

“The Speaker in 2012 wrote a letter to Urban Development Ministry for the same. And now they have the gall to oppose the same project?”

“While Central Vista is not new, see Congress’ hypocrisy. Congress & its allies are splurging on a new project reconstructing an MLA hostel in Maharashtra & building a new Legislative Assembly building in Chhattisgarh. If this is fine, what is the problem with Central Vista?” Puri said in another tweet.

The Union minister also accused the Congress of practising “cheap politics” and adopting a diversion tactic. “They want to distract people from monumental governance failures in their states by spreading lies. So they indulge in cheap politics despite knowing this project creates direct & indirect employment for thousands of skilled, semi-skilled & unskilled workers in these times,” he posted.

The Central Vista project envisages the construction of a new Parliament House, a new residential complex that will house the Prime Minister and the Vice President, and several new office buildings and a Central Secretariat to accommodate ministries’ offices.

Puri’s offensive came hours after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi termed the project a “criminal wastage”. “Central Vista is criminal wastage. Put people’s lives at the centre — not your blind arrogance to get a new house,” Gandhi posted on Twitter.

Puri pointed out that there were hundreds of projects being executed by various departments. “Governance hasn’t come to a standstill, unlike the Congress’s times of policy paralysis. Central Vista is just another ongoing project. It’s only the Congress that’s obsessed about it, nobody else,” he said, taking a dig at past governments led by the Congress at the Centre.

“Moreover, only projects for New Parliament Building & rejuvenation of Central Vista Avenue have been awarded at an estimated cost of ₹862 crore & ₹477 crore respectively till now. As I said, there are many components in Central Vista project which are spread over several years,” Puri added.

In a related development, the Supreme Court refused on Friday to entertain a plea against deferment of hearing on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking direction to halt construction activities under the Central Vista project during the pandemic, but gave liberty to petitioners to approach the Delhi High Court for urgent listing of the matter.

The court was hearing the appeal against a May 4 order of the high court, which had listed the PIL for hearing on May 17 while mention that it wanted to first go through what the Supreme Court deliberated in its January 5 judgment that gave a go-ahead to the ambitious project, news agency PTI reported.

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