"Insult To Democracy, People": PM On Opposition's Parliament Protests

1 month ago 24
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New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday morning renewed his attack on the opposition, once again accusing it of not allowing Parliament's monsoon session to function. At a meeting of BJP MPs he said repeated adjournments forced by a vociferous opposition were "an insult to Parliament... the constitution... to democracy and to the public".

"Parliament is being insulted by the acts of the Opposition in both Houses. The person who snatched the paper and tore it is not repentant of his acts. Comments made by a senior MP regarding the passage of Bills is derogatory," the Prime Minister told his MPs.

He was referring to Trinamool MP Shantanu Sen, who snatched IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's papers (Mr Vaishnaw was about to make a statement on the Pegasus row), and flung them at Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh.

This is the second time in a week the Prime Minister has lashed out at the opposition over fierce protests in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha over a number of issues, including the Pegasus phone-hacking row, the government's handling of the pandemic, and the farmers' protest.

Last week he singled out the Congress and accused it of spurning attempts at resolving an impasse that has seen little, if any, work conducted in this session of Parliament.

The Prime Minister's attack came as Congress MP Rahul Gandhi led a breakfast meeting of 15 opposition parties - the second this week.

Trinamool Congress' Mahua Moitra, the NCP's Supriya Sule, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut, and the DMK's Kanimozhi were among those present as opposition parties underscore their united front.

After a similar meeting last week, Mr Gandhi and other opposition leaders declared PM Modi had "inserted a weapon in our phones" and used it to "hit the soul of India's democracy".

The unrelenting face-off between the government and the opposition (who were already at odds over the Covid situation and the farmers' protests) escalated sharply after the Pegasus allegations.

Rahul Gandhi is among those whose phones were allegedly a target for surveillance.

The opposition has demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe, as well as a discussion in Parliament with both the Prime Minister and Home Minister Amit Shah present.

The government has refused this demand, insisting surveillance of the alleged kind is impossible given existing checks and balances in India's legal framework. It has also referred to IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's statement in Parliament and indicated it considers the matter closed.

Last week Bengal became the first state to order a judicial probe into the incident.

Little or no business has been conducted in parliament since the Pegasus row erupted July 18.

The government has claimed a loss of Rs 133 crore due to the disruptions; a statement via unnamed "sources" on Saturday said the Lok Sabha had only functioned for about seven of a possible 54 hours, and the Rajya Sabha 11 of a possible 53.

The few bills that have been passed were pushed through in minutes, earning a sarcastic "passing laws or making papri chaat?" tweet from Trinamool Rajya Sabha MP Derek O'Brien.

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