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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Divided Opp shows up at Pegasus protest in Lok Sabha

House adjourned amid separate slogan-shouting by UPA, TMC MPs

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
July 24, 2021 2:38:27 am
Lok Sabha proceedings on Friday. (PTI)

LOK SABHA was adjourned without transacting any major business due to disruptions, largely over the Pegasus snooping allegations, for the fourth consecutive day on Friday. However, the opposition parties yet again remained disunited in their protests, failing to coordinate and build an offensive that may bring the Treasury benches under pressure.

Although, unlike the previous day, both the Congress-led UPA parties and Trinamool Congress were on the same page to raise the Pegasus issue, they refrained from putting up a joint protest, giving an impression of one-upmanship among the opposition parties.

The division clearly showed when the House met at 11 am as both sides shouted different slogans simultaneously, on either side of the Chair, causing more noise than impact.

While on the Speaker’s right, TMC MPs led by Abhishek Banerjee shouted slogans such as “Narendra Modi down down”, on his left, MPs from the Congress, DMK, NCP and Left held placards against the Prime Minister and shouted “Jasoosi ki rajniti band karo [stop politics of snooping]”. The Speaker, who tried to take up the Question Hour, was forced to adjourn the House for 45 minutes.

When the House met again at noon, the MPs of both sides continued to shout slogans separately, not even once in coordination. Kirit Solanki, who was presiding, called the ministers to table the papers listed against their names. Motions were moved for electing new members for the standing committees before the House was adjourned for the day 20 minutes later.

For the ruling BJP, the lack of unity among the opposition parties and their failure to put up a strong offensive against the government have helped it dismiss the allegations of Pegasus snooping. The BJP has so far denied the allegations relating to the spyware as “fake news”. On Friday, the Treasury benches expressed confidence that the House proceedings will be smooth by next week.

Outside the House, a senior Congress leader conceded that the absence of coordination among the opposition MPs made the protests in Lok Sabha appear disorganised and did not have the desired impact. Sources in the Congress said the TMC had “rejected” their attempts to have a “coordinated and united” opposition protest.

The TMC, according to sources, did not want to work with the Congress, which is led by Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury in the Lok Sabha. “The TMC MPs seem to be keen on hijacking the entire opposition space with their 22 MPs and refused to coordinate with us. But we just hope a meeting or discussion between the top leadership could sort this out by next week,” said a Congress MP.

Congress MP Manick Tagore said, “The Congress president has appointed Mallikarjun Kharge for coordinating with the opposition parties in Parliament. Khargeji is making all efforts. We hope every opposition party will come together soon.”

TMC leaders admitted that while all opposition parties were raising issue with the government “more vociferously” this session, coordination could be better. “Of course, the coordination can be better, and there are some issues like the long standing bitterness between the Congress leader in Lok Sabha [Chowdhury] and the TMC. But you can see that this session, we are very serious about not letting the government get away. There are also attempts to bring the opposition together. Next week, it is expected that our leader Mamata Banerjee will come to Delhi. This will be discussed as well I’m sure, and we will work towards a united front,” a party MP said.

The synergy was missing among the Congress and its allies as well. Although the UPA had planned a joint protest outside the House before the session began on Friday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi did not turn up until 10.30 am, while the DMK, Shiv Sena and Left party leaders were present before 10 am as scheduled.

Sources said the leaders of Shiv Sena and DMK were upset with Gandhi for being late. However, later Gandhi was seen talking to both M Kanimozhi of the DMK and Arvind Sawant of Sena inside the house. Sources said Gandhi conveyed to them there was a communication gap from his party and that he was asked to reach by 10.30 for the protests. He apologised to both, the sources added.

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