Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led a breakfast meeting of Opposition leaders on Tuesday to chart out a joint parliamentary strategy for the Monsoon Session. The parties have alleged that they were not being heard, and discussed the option of holding a “mock Parliament” outside.
This was the second Opposition meeting since last week to put pressure on the Narendra Modi government to discuss the Pegasus surveillance controversy, the farm law protests and rise in fuel prices, among other matters.
Since the Monsoon Session began on July 19, the proceedings have been continuously disrupted because of the Opposition’s demand to discuss whether India used Israeli-made Pegasus spyware to monitor politicians, journalists and activists. The Bharatiya Janata Party government has, however, refused to hold discussions and said that IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has already spoken about it.
Vaishnaw, one of the potential targets of the surveillance, had said in Parliament that there was no substance to the reports of spying. But, he refused to state categorically that India has not used Pegasus spyware.
During Tuesday’s breakfast meeting, Trinamool Congress’ Mohua Moitra, Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and Congress’ Mallikarjun Kharge were among those present.
Gandhi called for Opposition unity at the meeting, PTI reported. “The more this voice unites, the more powerful it will become, the more difficult it will become for the BJP and RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] to suppress this voice,” he added. “We should remember the foundation of unity and it is important that now we start to come up with the principles of this foundation.”
After the meeting, Gandhi rode a bicycle to Parliament from Constitution Club to protest the increase in fuel prices. “As far as fuel prices are concerned, the people of India are struggling and if we cycle from here to Parliament, it will have an impact,” the former Congress chief said.
On July 26, Gandhi drove a tractor to the Parliament to protest against the agricultural laws.
Disrupting Parliament is an insult to democracy, says Modi
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a parliamentary meeting attacked the Opposition for disrupting the Parliament session, NDTV reported. He said the repeated adjournments were “an insult to Parliament, the Constitution, to democracy and to the public”.
Union minister V Muraleedharan also claimed that the Opposition leaders were insulting Parliament, ANI reported. “The person who snatched the paper and tore it is not repentant of his acts,” he said, referring to Trinamool Congress MP Shantanu Sen.
The minister also criticised Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien, who had wondered if the government was passing Bills or making “papri chaat”, an Indian snack.
“Comments made by a senior MP regarding the passage of Bills is derogatory,” Muraleedharan said.