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Opposition corners Modi Govt 1st time in 7 yrs, impasse persists

The opposition wants discussion on Pegasus snooping row, farm laws and other issues but the government is pushing its own business

Sunday August 1, 2021 5:27 PM, IANS

Opposition Protest

New Delhi: The Parliament's Monsoon session has seen little business, so far, due to the stand-off between the government and the opposition over the Pegasus snooping controversy, except on one occasion when in the upper house, newly-appointed Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya made a strong defence of its Covid management in a nearly-hour-long speech.

The rest of the session, slated to continue till August 13, is also likely to be affected as the like-minded opposition parties have joined in to corner the government on several issues, including Pegasus snooping row, farm laws, rise in fuel prices and inflation.

The opposition wants discussion on these issues first but the government is pushing its own business and passing bills in the house without debate and discussion.

Even arch-rivals like West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress and the Left are seen on the same page, and so are the Congress, the Akali Dal, and the Aam Aadmi Party, who are ranged each other in Punjab but are united against the farm laws.

Congress Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi blames the government squarely for the logjam.

"What is the question we ask? I cannot imagine any more simple question in the world: Did you acquire Pegasus software and did you use it against any person, and if you did, please disclose their names. You, meaning any government agency by whatever name it is called. Now, this question can only be answered by 'Yes' or 'No' and then you can give explanation."

The government, however, says that the rules do not permit discussion on the issue, which it termed "non-serious".

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi said:

"More than 315 members want the Question Hour. Despite that, the opposition is behaving like this... it is most unfortunate. The IT Minister has given detailed statement in both the Houses. This is totally non-serious issue."

He said there are so many issues concerning public that need to be discussed.

"The government does not want to pass the Bills without discussions. We are ready for discussion but they (the opposition) are not allowing it," he said.

However, the opposition is adamant on seeking answers on the snooping row as the leaders feel that the government is invading their privacy, apart from getting information of their secret planning and political moves. With many of the opposition leaders, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, on the list, the opposition alleges that the government is running away from discussion to hide the truth.

Gandhi has said that he was only asking if the Pegasus software was bought, and if it was used against certain persons in India.

"The government has said no discussion... Why shouldn't we have a discussion on the floor of the House?

"I want to ask the people... there is a weapon Narendra Modi has planted in your phones... used against opposition leaders, journalists, activists... should there not be a discussion in Parliament?" he asked.

Trinamool chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered a judicial enquiry in her own state on the issue.

While the government is questioning the timing of news reports of the snooping row, the opposition is questioning the motive and violation of law.

Like-minded opposition parties are meeting, including in the office of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to chalk out strategy in the house.

But, with government passing of the bills amid din and without discussion both in both house, the equations between the government and the opposition have been upset and a way out of the impasse seems unlikely anytime soon.

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