Updated: July 27, 2021 7:52:03 am
Rajya Sabha proceedings were continuously disrupted on Monday before being washed out in the afternoon session as Opposition kept demanding a discussion on the allegations that the government snooped on journalists, activists, politicians and others using the Pegasus spyware.
Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge reiterated the demand that under Rule 267, other House businesses should be suspended to have a discussion on the Pegasus issue in the presence of the Prime Minister or the Home Minister.
“We have given notice that the House suspends Zero Hour and relevant rules relating to Question Hour and other business of the day, to have a discussion in the presence of the Prime Minister or the Home Minister,” he said. He said that “it is not a small matter” and called it a “spying, surveillance scandal that has undermined the democracy” and called it “treason”.
In response, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the Chairman of the House has already rejected the notice to have the discussion, adding that IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has already made a statement on the subject. He stated that the government is ready for a discussion on the topic, but the Chairman has to decide when it will happen and under which rules.
Earlier, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he has received notices from many members, including Kharge, DMK’s Tiruchi Siva, TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, CPI(M)’s Elamaram Kareem and CPI’s Binoy Viswam, and argued, “I have not allowed all these notices because we are discussing these issues in the normal course of time.”
He said, “Special Mentions on 31 matters were permitted by the Chair, out of which only eight were laid on the Table of the House. All these important issues could not be discussed because of this situation. So, we are becoming helpless. Members should know what the important issues which were admitted are. Members are present. They wanted to speak but they were not permitted by you…”
Soon afterwards, he adjourned the proceedings till noon. Similar protests continued after the House met again, and proceedings were adjourned four more times till 5 pm.
Amidst the din, BJP’s Jugal Singh Lokhandwala kept trying to continue the discussion on the Marine Aids to Navigation Bill, which was introduced in the Upper House last week. However, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani got the motion to withdraw the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 passed.
Later, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha said that the Chairman, in the Business Advisory Committee meeting had said that “the Ministers should reach out to the Opposition Members and evolve a formula for running the House. I am sorry to say that they have not reached out. They have not offered a dialogue offer”.
Jha said, “Parliament is meant to reflect the minds of the people. There is a fear in the minds of the people. You are failing there.”
Countering Jha, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said, “On more than one occasion, we have reached out to different parties in the Opposition. I personally, almost every day, reached out to the principal Opposition party, to other parties on the other side, individually also. But, there is no consensus amongst all the Opposition parties on many issues.”
Goyal said on Friday, he had “requested everybody to join me over a cup of tea, for an informal discussion… [but] unfortunately, two of the principal parties refused to come for that also”.
Reiterating his request to meet, Goyal said, “I am publicly inviting them to join me over a cup of tea. We are happy to discuss all the issues, evolve a consensus and develop a formula.” However, he noted that “it can’t be my way or the highway”. Calling it a “negative approach” Goyal said that “this obstructionism that is being resorted to by some of the Opposition parties is quite harmful for Indian democracy”.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said he had reached out to Kharge on Monday morning, requesting to meet him along with Goyal, and that he could call other leaders as well. However Kharge, Joshi said, had told him that he will consult with his party and Opposition colleagues and get back. Joshi added, “I am waiting for him.”
DMK’s Tiruchi Siva raised the issue of Kharge’s mic being switched off while he was raising the issue. He said as per convention “during the proceedings of the House, neither the Prime Minister nor the LoP (Leader of Opposition) should be interrupted when they are speaking”. He mentioned that while Kharge was speaking, he was “interrupted” by members of the treasury bench, and his “mic was switched off”, while Naqvi’s mic “was switched on”.
— With ENS, New Delhi
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