India World

Indian PM faces criticism for allegedly changing look of lion in national emblem statue

The Indian government has defended the look of the national emblem on top of the new parliament building amid criticism over its appearance.

The new statue, adapted from an ancient Indian sculpture, was unveiled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

The 6.5m-tall cast shows four Asiatic lions mounted back-to-back on a circular disc.

Critics say the new lions look “ferocious” and stray from their original depiction.

Opposition leaders have also criticised the government, saying that the new avatar of the emblem – adapted from the Lion Capital of Ashoka, a sculpture that was atop one of the several pillars erected by Emperor Ashoka during his reign in 250BC – was a “brazen insult to India’s national symbol”.

Chandra Kumar Bose, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told reporters that he accepted the view that there was a change in the structure. “But let us not always criticise. Maybe India is different today,” he said.

The new parliament building – which is still under construction – is part of the government’s 200 billion-rupee ($2.7 billion) plan to modernise old colonial government buildings in Delhi.

Opposition parties have criticised the government for the cost of the project and its aesthetics.

On Monday, Sitaram Yechury, a leader of the opposition Communist Party of India (Marxist), said that PM Modi’s involvement in unveiling the national emblem violated the constitution as it “subverted” the separation of power between the executive, represented by Mr Modi, and the legislature, which the parliament building symbolised.

The new parliament building was expected to be completed by August 2022 in time for the country’s celebrations of 75 years of independence. But officials later said the building would be complete only in October.