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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Last week of House session, no sign of thaw, Opposition wants to be heard on Pegasus

Overall, ten bills -- including The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 -- have been passed by both the Houses.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: August 9, 2021 7:29:49 am
On Sunday, the Trinamool Congress put out a three-minute video clip on what Opposition leaders have said on the Pegasus issue and the farmer's protests on the floor of the House during passage of the Bills.

As this Monsoon session of Parliament enters its final week, there is little possibility of both the Houses functioning smoothly as Opposition parties Sunday made it clear they will continue to insist on a discussion on the Pegasus spyware issue — a demand that the Government is unlikely to accede to.

Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said the Opposition should now move a no-confidence motion against the Government. “Rather than just continuing disruptions, we should probably seriously consider other parliamentary manoeuvres…including a vote of no-confidence, because I think there is genuinely no confidence among the bulk of the Opposition parties in this Government,” Tharoor told The Indian Express.

In 2010, the Winter session was washed out over protests by the BJP, then in the Opposition, demanding a JPC probe into the 2G spectrum license allocation. The party had stalled functioning of both the Houses after the CAG report on 2G allocation became public.

This time, the difference is that the BJP Government has managed to introduce 12 new Bills, eight in Lok Sabha and four in Rajya Sabha. All these bills have been passed in the House in which they were introduced.

Overall, ten bills — including The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and The Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 — have been passed by both the Houses.

Seven bills have been passed by one of the two Houses, and will come up for discussion this week. The key among them are The Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and The General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021, which were passed by Lok Sabha last week. These bills will now come for discussion and passage in Rajya Sabha — as also the important OBC Bill, which is the Constitutional 127th Amendment Bill to restore power to the states to identify backward classes.

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On Sunday, the Trinamool Congress put out a three-minute video clip on what Opposition leaders have said on the Pegasus issue and the farmer’s protests on the floor of the House during passage of the Bills.

Sources said the idea behind the video put out by TMC Rajya Sabha leader Derek O’Brien is to show how Opposition leaders used the words “farmers”, “Pegasus” and “spyware” during discussions on various Bills in an attempt to voice these issues.

“When the official channels are being denied, this is a new way to reach the masses,” said O’Brien.

“PM @narendramodi seems to have lost his nerves. Why is he not keen on answering questions in Parliament? The opposition parties are ready for discussions in Parliament, but @BJP4India govt is stalling the proceedings so that the truth doesn’t get to the people,” Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said in a tweet to post the video, which is a compilation of mainly clips from RSTV.

“You are not allowing the discussion we have been asking for in the past 14 days…You are passing that Bill now. If you have courage, begin the discussions on Pegasus now,” Kharge is heard saying on the floor of the House in the video.

The compilation includes Opposition speakers such as Vandana Chavan (NCP), Manoj Jha (RJD), Deepinder Hooda (Congress), Sukhendu Shekar Roy (TMC), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena), Elamaram Kareem (CPM) — and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari (Congress) among others

“We had demanded discussions on three important issues — Covid management, farmer’s issues and price rise,” Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury told The Indian Express.

“The Government tried their best to scuttle any discussion on price rise. Then the issue of Pegasus came, it was a key issue of national security. We wanted a discussion but the Government has so far not agreed despite our repeated pleas. They are more interested in trying to divide the Opposition,” he said.

Referring to the OBC Bill, Chowdhury said: “Even now, the Government is trying to do that.”

The Congress, however, does not plan to oppose the Bill and may even pause the protests to allow a discussion to prevent the Government from projecting it as a party that is opposing a key legislation related to OBCs.

“We have no opposition to the Bill. It is our issue, because we had warned the Government in 2018 that you are committing a mistake…taking away powers of the states. Now they are being forced to bring the Bill… but the Government is trying to be too clever by half…we will point it out. We will not stand in the way of passage of the Bill,” Chowdhury said.

The Opposition parties made it clear that they will continue to demand a discussion on the Pegasus issue.

“The Government does not want the words ‘Pegasus’, ‘national security’, ‘repeal farm laws’ and ‘price rise’ to be mentioned on the floor of the House. They are running scared. The Opposition is united in holding them accountable,” O’Brien told The Indian Express.

“They have bulldozed 25 bills at an average of ten minutes per Bill. It’s a disgrace that just one out of ten Bills passed are being scrutinised. They are making popcorn, not legislating. Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has not answered a single question on the floor of Parliament in the last five years. We want to say, ‘Come listen to us, Mr Modi’. Also importantly, another session of Parliament will conclude without a Deputy Speaker being appointed,” he said.

“We expect the House to resume its business at least from tomorrow onwards. We are insisting on a discussion on Pegasus… We cannot be a party to just participating in legislative business,” DMK’s Tiruchi Siva said.

Summing up the Opposition mood, Tharoor said: “The Government’s refusal to be answerable in any way, shape or form on an issue of national and international importance has made a mockery of democracy and ordinary Indians which the Government claims to represent. Avoiding discussion and accountability is a real insult to Parliament.”

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