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Saturday, September 18, 2021

‘I object to even manner of suspension…I was not given chance to defend myself’: TMC MP Santanu Sen

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dr Santanu Sen said "I don’t care about my individual suspension. Suspending me cannot suppress the voices of Mamata Banerjee and TMC on the Pegasus issue."

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: July 24, 2021 12:55:46 pm
TMC MP Santanu Sen

Suspended from Parliament for rest of the monsoon session on Friday, Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dr Santanu Sen tells The Indian Express about Thursday’s chaotic session, his suspension, and the TMC’s plan to take forward the protest against alleged surveillance using Pegasus spyware:

Why were you and your colleagues protesting even before IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw read out his statement in Rajya Sabha?

Over the last four working days, the Opposition has been demanding a discussion on revelations on Pegasus spyware. Opposition members have submitted 276 notices for this discussion. But we were not permitted to discuss this. Instead, one fine day, the IT Minister simply arrived with a piece of paper – his statement. What we wanted is a structured discussion on the issue.

How do you feel about your suspension?

This is not the first time anyone has torn up papers in the Well of the House; it is not unprecedented. As a matter of fact, it has happened many times before. I object to even the manner in which the suspension was carried out — it was not listed, and didn’t even find mention in supplementary list of business. The minister simply moved the motion and the Chairman passed it. I was not given the chance to defend myself. How is this acceptable in Parliament of a democracy?

I don’t care about my individual suspension. Suspending me cannot suppress the voices of Mamata Banerjee and TMC on the Pegasus issue.

What was the issue with Hardeep Singh Puri?

After Rajya Sabha was adjourned, Hardeep Singh Puri gesticulated rudely to me, using objectionable body language. He then proceeded to threaten me and would have even physically assaulted me if my Trinamool colleagues hadn’t rushed to my rescue and marshals hadn’t intervened. This was a black day in Parliament…if a minister can attack another Parliamentarian in this manner. We have complained to the Deputy Chairman, who was in chair at the time. He told us that he will look into the matter.

In any case, we in TMC are discussing our next move on the matter…we will not let this behaviour (of Puri’s) rest.

The TMC has been one of the parties at the forefront of the protests.

This is a very grave matter. Surveillance itself is a grave concern. But what is even more concerning is that they are not leaving anyone — from journalists to human rights defenders and the election commission to CBI directors. They are even snooping on their own ministers. For TMC, it is of particular concern because the number of (party MP) Abhishek Banerjee has also been found on the list. The party has declared categorically that we will continue our protests until August 13 (when the session ends) unless we are allowed a proper discussion on the issue in Parliament.

Do you feel TMC, and you in particular, have been singled out?

I don’t know about being singled out. All Opposition members are raising this issue. But it is definitely vendetta politics on BJP’s part. Even after two-and-a-half months of the West Bengal elections, and their crushing defeat in the state, they have been unable to accept this defeat. They had thrown everything at us — money, muscle, Constitutional agencies, and yet they lost. This is a matter of concern for BJP, as they know it is their final bell. And the biggest threat that they face is from Mamata Banerjee and the Trinamool Congress.

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