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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Rahul Gandhi chairs opposition meeting, to push jointly in House for Pegasus discussion

During the meeting, some of the opposition floor leaders argued that the message that needs to go out to the BJP should be of Opposition unity and there should be no division or misunderstanding among them.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi |
Updated: July 28, 2021 7:02:09 am
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. (Express Photo by Anil Sharma)

Amid the continuing standoff in Parliament, a meeting on Tuesday of floor leaders of opposition parties in the Lok Sabha, chaired by senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, decided that they would come together on the Pegasus spyware phone hacking row and mount pressure on the government for a discussion in the presence of Home Minister Amit Shah.

On Wednesday, sources said, all the opposition parties would give adjournment notices in the Lok Sabha on the Pegasus scandal.

Sources in the Opposition camp claimed that the government side had indicated that it was ready for a discussion on any subject, barring the Pegasus revelations. The government’s move to push through two Bills during the din in the Lok Sabha on Monday has also infuriated opposition parties.

Besides Gandhi, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, and the party’s floor managers, the meeting was attended by, among others, the DMK’s T R Baalu and Kanimozhi, the NCP’s Supriya Sule, the Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant, the Kerala Congress (M)’s Thomas Chazhikadan, the National Conference’s Hasnain Masoodi, the RSP’s N K Premachandran, the Muslim League’s E T Mohd Basheer and the CPM’s S Venkatesan and AM Ariff.

During the meeting, some of the opposition floor leaders argued that the message that needs to go out to the BJP should be of Opposition unity and there should be no division or misunderstanding among them. One leader, sources said, spoke about the need for a more aggressive disruption of the House, arguing that the government was able to carry out business despite the slogan shouting.

Sources said Gandhi will on Wednesday also chair a combined meeting of floor leaders of opposition parties of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to coordinate their strategy. Sources said opposition parties, including those from the BSP, had approached Gandhi to convene the meeting. The opposition leaders will also hold a joint press conference on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Opposition floor leaders of Rajya Sabha addressed a joint press conference, signalling a united stand on the Pegasus row and the farmers’ issue.

“We want a discussion and a probe monitored by the Supreme Court. Many countries have ordered investigations. France has ordered an inquiry, Hungary and Germany too, I am told, have set up probes. I don’t understand why our government is trying to hide. Our government is saying there is nothing in the revelations. If there is nothing in it, then why are you hiding? Why don’t you set up a probe like other countries,” Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said.

He was flanked by DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, SP’s Ram Gopal Yadav, TMC’s Sukendu Shekhar Roy, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha, AAP’s Sanjay Singh and CPM’s Elamaram Kareem and CPI’s Binoy Viswam. Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said “the blame of the deadlock in Parliament lies squarely at the door of the government.”

“This government has functioned in a manner that has lowered the prestige of Indian Parliament and Indian democracy. What the opposition has demanded is fair, correct, within the ambit of rules and established Parliament practice and conventions. When collectively, the opposition gives a notice… that matter has to be discussed, Parliament is not convened only for the legislative agenda of the government. Parliament is meant to raise issues of national importance… that’s what we are doing,” he said.

The day also saw seven opposition parties, led by former BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal, writing to President Ram Nath Kovind and urging him to direct the government to discuss the farmers’ issue and the snooping controversy in Parliament. The BSP, NCP, RLP, National Conference, CPI and the CPI(M) were the other signatories to the letter. The Congress, the Akali Dal’s main rival in Punjab, was not a signatory.

On Monday, Gandhi drove a tractor to Parliament in support of the protesting farmers. Not to be outwitted, the SAD rallied the six parties to write the letter to the President.

“We members of parliament (MPs) of various political parties are writing to you to seek an appointment to apprise you of two disturbing developments including the complete stonewalling of demands of the peasantry to repeal the three agricultural laws as well as use of Israeli spyware Pegasus to tape telephones of politicians, journalists and activists,” the letter read.

“We seek your benign intervention to uphold the dignity of the Constitution of India and parliamentary rules and procedures. The country is going through an Emergency-like situation and the Parliament of India is going through an unprecedented crisis….”

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