BJP members on Tuesday staged a walkout from the meeting of the Standing Committee on Information and Technology, headed by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, claiming that the rules do not permit committee meetings to be held while Parliament is in session. The committee is also set to discuss the Pegasus snooping case on Wednesday.
Hours before the BJP MPs walked out of the meeting, newly appointed Union Environment and Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav had called for an “informal” meeting of the BJP members of the IT Parliamentary Panel. Awkwardly, the invitation for the meeting also went to CPI(M) MP and member P.R. Natarajan. “Around 1 p.m. I got a call from Mr. Yadav’s office, saying that the Minister wants to meet. I was surprised, since I had not sought any appointment with him. I told that to the person who phoned me but he insisted that I come at 2 p.m. to meet the Minister,” Mr Natarajan told The Hindu .
At 2 p.m. Mr. Natarajan went to Mr. Yadav’s room in Parliament and met him. “He asked me are you a member of the IT committee? I said yes, then he asked me which party I was from. When I told him I was from CPI (M), he apologised and said it was a meeting only for the BJP members,” Mr. Natarajan said.
At 4 p.m. the standing committee of IT met on the agenda: “To hear the views of the individuals/ stakeholders/ organizations in connection with the examination of the subject ‘Review of functioning of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)’ relating to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in context of the draft 'Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021’.”
Right at the outset, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, according to multiple sources, said committee meetings can’t be held during the Parliament session. It was then pointed out to him that five other committee meetings were held on Tuesday. He then said the agenda of the meeting was not notified in time. Raising these objections, he along with five other BJP MPs walked out of the meeting.
Later, speaking to the television channel CNN IBN, Mr. Dubey said, “We didn’t get the agenda. And when Parliament is in session, our work is to run Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. To hold a meeting at such a time is not appropriate. The Chairman is arbitrarily running his own writ.”
Mr Natarajan said that it was only after the BJP MPs’ walkout that he realised that the meeting called by Mr. Yadav was to organise the protest.
“This clearly shows that BJP high command decides how a member should behave in a standing committee that is a non-partisan platform,” Mr. Natarajan said. The Hindu reached out to Mr. Yadav to get his comments but the questions sent to him remained unanswered.
The BJP’s walk out on Tuesday comes ahead of another meeting of the standing committee on IT scheduled on Wednesday on the subject of “Citizens Data Security and Privacy” during which Pegasus cyber attack will also be deliberated upon. Officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and Department of Telecom have been summoned. Sources said they will be asked pointed questions on the revelations about the government’s alleged involvement in the Pegasus cyber attack.
After the BJP MPs walked out, the discussion on the actual agenda began. Filmmaker and politician Kamal Hasan, Central Board of Film Certification chairman Prasoon Joshi and other stakeholders deposed in front of the committee.