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Sunday, September 26, 2021

United Opposition resolves to not let House function till Pegasus on table

This could mean a complete washout of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The Houses could not function for the eighth successive day on Wednesday amidst Opposition protests.

Written by Manoj C G , Ravish Tiwari | New Delhi |
Updated: July 29, 2021 5:36:14 am
Rahul Gandhi with other Opposition leaders in Delhi. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

A UNITED Opposition Wednesday resolved to lift the blockade of Parliament only if the NDA government agreed to a discussion in the House on the Pegasus scandal in the presence of either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah. Leaders of 14 Opposition parties of both the Houses met at Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge’s chamber to coordinate their floor strategy.

This could mean a complete washout of the Monsoon Session of Parliament. The Houses could not function for the eighth successive day on Wednesday amidst Opposition protests.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who had earlier called for parties to set aside differences at the state level, called the experience of the joint Opposition meeting extremely humbling. “Amazing experience, wisdom and insight in everyone present,” he said. Addressing the media with other leaders, he added, “If we say now that we will not do a discussion on Pegasus… and agree to a discussion on some other issue… then (the issue of) Pegasus will be over.”

In the first few days of the Parliament session, the parties have been separately raising issues like price rice, farm laws, Covid situation and the Pegasus row. On Wednesday, almost all the Opposition parties gave similar notices demanding a discussion on the alleged spying scandal.

While floor leaders of the Trinamool Congress were not present at the Opposition meeting, the party made light of this, saying the TMC has long been pitching for such unity. Later in the day, West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, who is in Delhi, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.

Another notable exception was the BSP. One of its MPs had attended a meeting of Lok Sabha leaders chaired by Rahul Tuesday.

With both Banerjee and NCP leader Sharad Pawar making overtures to Opposition parties, the meetings held over the past two days indicate Rahul is taking a more active role in pitching the Congress for the space. Sources said he offered many suggestions at Wednesday’s meeting, including urging Opposition parties to set aside differences and suggesting that they live-stream their meetings to signal a united resolve against the Modi government. Due to lack of time, not much discussion could be held on the suggestions.

One of the MPs said Rahul also wanted the Opposition to “communicate its message more aggressively on TV”. He called for a strategy for both inside and outside Parliament so as to appear consistent and coherent. He stressed the need to “develop a collective voice” at the national level even as “we fight against each other in some states”.

The Opposition MPs, including Rahul, the Samajwadi Party’s Ram Gopal Yadav, DMK’s T R Baalu and Kanimozhi, NCP’s Supriya Sule, RJD’s Manoj Kumar Jha, Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, and AAP’s Sanjay Singh, among others, later held a press conference.

Rahul said the Opposition’s voice was being “suppressed” in Parliament, and that the government needed to answer two things: whether it had bought the Pegasus spyware or not, and if it had used it against its own people.

Asked whether Congress-ruled state governments would consider instituting n inquiry into the matter, like West Bengal had done, he said: “We can consider that, but the main point we are making is that the House is the place where we have to speak… The government is refusing to give us a discussion on Pegasus. Obviously, the government has done something wrong, done something that is dangerous for the country.”

Rahul added, “Pegasus cannot be discussed later. For us, Pegasus is an issue of nationalism… a matter of treason… This is not an issue of privacy… Narendra Modi ji and Amit Shah ji have hit the soul of democracy… We will not go anywhere before a discussion takes place on Pegasus.”

Baalu accused the government of misleading by saying the Opposition was stalling a discussion in the House, while the SP’s Yadav called this a “blatant lie” and “false propaganda”. Raut said the government had “backstabbed” the Opposition by using the weapon of Pegasus.

“No institution has been left out of this snooping and truth will not come till a Supreme Court-monitored probe is conducted. The corruption in the Rafale deal is linked to this snooping issue,” the AAP’s Singh said. Jha said the government cannot ignore the Opposition that represents 60% of the people’s mandate.

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