The Opposition found BJP patriarch LK Advani by its side at a parliamentary standing committee meeting on net neutrality on Thursday, amid a raging row that the government was trying to gift Internet space to corporate groups.
Advani was on the same page with opposition members who demanded that the meeting be called off as representatives of private service providers Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were invited to present their case on the controversial net neutrality issue.
Net neutrality means firms that provide online services should treat all lawful Internet content in an unbiased manner. The government has been weighing its options on the raging debate whether telecom firms should influence access to websites.
The panel on information technology, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, had to abandon the meeting after 50 minutes of heated exchange as Derek O'Brien of the Trinamool Congress and Congress's KVP Ramachandra Rao insisted that consumer forums and over-the-top service providers should be invited first.
The Opposition said the 120-page background note provided by the telecom operators had reached them last evening, leaving no time to go through it. "I am not literate enough to read 120 pages in 3-4 hours," Trinamool's Prasun Banerjee remarked.
As Thakur and his BJP colleague, Sunil Gaikwad, pressed to go ahead with the meeting, Advani's turn came to speak. "Both points (of the opposition leaders) are relevant. Let us call a meeting later," he said.
The opposition members seized the opportunity, saying there shouldn't be any further argument sinceAdvani wants the meeting postponed.
Thakur put up a brave face and proposed that the telecom representatives be allowed to at least make their presentations and the panel members can question them later. All along, representatives of the service providers were waiting outside.
But the opposition members dug in their heels. "Batting and fielding in a cricket match can't happen separately," one of them said.
They praised Advani, who has been sidelined in the BJP since it became the first party to enjoy outright Lok Sabha majority in 30 years after romping to power in May last year.
The Opposition has sought to corner the Narendra Modi government on net neutrality after telecom regulator TRAI invited comments from users and companies on how over-the-top services should be regulated in the country.