Parliament paralysed over Pegasus, farm laws

Opposition members protest in the Rajya Sabha on July 22, 2021. Photo: RSTV via PTI  

The proceedings of both the Houses of Parliament continued to remain paralysed on Thursday as Opposition members protested over a number of issues including the Pegasus snooping controversy and made a fresh pitch to repeal the three controversial farm laws.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed some ugly scenes and tense moments when it met at 2 p.m. after two adjournments as a Trinamool member, Dr Santanu Sen, snatched and tore the statement being read out by Information Technology (IT) Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on the Pegasus spyware episode.


The Minister, who had already made the statement in the Lok Sabha on Monday, tabled his statement in the House after unsuccessfully trying to read it from another copy. Minutes later, the House was adjourned for the day but that didn’t bring an end to the hostilities.

Trinamool members in the Rajya Sabha alleged that Dr Sen was threatened by Union Minister for Petroleum and Housing and Urban Development Hardeep Puri, who summoned the former with a gesture, once live transmission of the proceedings had stopped.

“When I went to Mr. Puri, he started threatening and abusing me. I was gheraoed by the BJP MPs. Mr Puri was about to assault me.Thank God my other colleagues noticed and rescued me in time,” Dr. Sen later told reporters at a press conference.


Countering the TMC’s allegation, BJP sources said they would move a motion to suspend Dr. Sen for targeting a minister.

Trinamool parliamentary party’s leader Derek O'Brien said that the party wants a “structured debate” on the snooping issue where Prime Minister Narendra Modi should reply to the Opposition's questions.

“Our straight forward question is, did you [the government] or did you not use the Pegasus spyware? Trinamool will not let it sweep under the carpet,” Mr O’Brien said, adding, “When the government is using military grade spyware, the supposition that this is a question that the IT Minister can answer is preposterous.”

Unlike the Lok Sabha, the Upper House members get a chance to seek clarification in response to a minister’s statement but it was lost in the commotion.

The Lok Sabha too witnessed multiple adjournments before being adjourned for the day as Opposition members protested over the farm laws and the Pegasus spyware.

However, two bills — Inland Vessels Bill, 2021 and Essential Defence Services Bill, 2021 — were introduced in the House amid the din.

Even before the Lok Sabha proceedings began, Congress members from both the Houses including former party president Rahul Gandhi protested in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue inside the Parliament complex to express solidarity with farmer organisations that were protesting at Jantar Mantar, barely 500 metres from Parliament.

“They are adamant on falsehood, injustice and arrogance. We are satyagrahis standing united and fearlessly. Jai Kisaan,” Mr Gandhi tweeted and tagged photo of himself along with other MPs holding a banner that said “We demand repeal of anti-farmer laws’.

As soon as Lok Sabha proceedings started at 11a.m., Opposition members trooped into the well of the House and started raising slogans. Several of them were displaying placards, forcing Speaker Om Birla to take note.

“The House is for discussion and answering questions and if you [protesting Opposition members] want to raise slogans and show placards, you can do so outside the House,” he said before adjourning the House until noon.

The House adjourned twice after noon, before Biju Janata Dal MP Bartuhari Mahtab adjourned the House for the day at 4 p.m. since the opposition protests continued.

In between adjournments, Congress’ Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, interacted with the media to put their demands on the farm laws.

“When ministers stand up, they say they are ready for discussion but when we move motion to adjourn usual business and discuss farm laws, they don’t accept. The government is indulging in the politics of double speak. Inside the House, we don’t have the microphones turned on to put across views and even cameras are not allowed to show us,” Mr. Chowdhury alleged.

Pointing out that the farmers, since November 26 last year, have been sitting at Delhi’s borders, Mr Kharge said, “We are with the farmers and will keep fighting for them”.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 1:04:43 PM |

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