Govt targeting Oppn leaders to suppress their voices in Parliament: Kharge

On Wednesday, six TMC MPs --Dola Sen, Md. Nadimul Haque, Abir Ranjan Biswas, Shanta Chhetri, Arpita Ghosh, Mausam Noor-- were suspended from the Rajya Sabha after they entered the Well of the House with placards, shouting slogans
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge with Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa addressing media outside the Parliament at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi on Thursday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
Leader of Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge with Congress leader Pratap Singh Bajwa addressing media outside the Parliament at Vijay Chowk, in New Delhi on Thursday. (Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo)
Updated on Aug 05, 2021 05:26 PM IST
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By Malavika Murali

On Thursday, leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge alleged that the government is targeting Opposition leaders to suppress their voices in the House.

“The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, who were suspended yesterday [Wednesday], were just reminding the Chair about the issues. If they are trying to target us, threaten us, or put pressure on us to crush our voice and issues, Congress and other parties in the Opposition won’t bow down. We will continue our fight,” said Kharge at a press conference.

On Wednesday, six TMC MPs --Dola Sen, Md. Nadimul Haque, Abir Ranjan Biswas, Shanta Chhetri, Arpita Ghosh, Mausam Noor-- were suspended from the Rajya Sabha after they entered the Well of the House with placards, shouting slogans. The MPs were protesting the Pegasus snooping row, the contentious farm laws and spiraling fuel prices.

Also Read | Records on lawful interception destroyed regularly: Govt in Rajya Sabha

Kharge asked the government why it has not ordered an inquiry into the Pegasus row when countries like France and Israel have already started an investigation. “ What are you (government) afraid of that you don’t want an investigation or a discussion in the House?” asked Kharge.

He also refuted the government’s claim that the Opposition is not allowing the Parliament to function and is refusing to discuss issues. Kharge said that the Opposition has not received any notice indicating the government’s intention to discuss the Pegasus row, inflation and farm laws. He also pointed out that during the United Progressive Alliance regime, the BJP had caused the most disruptions.

The BJP, however, reiterated that it is the Opposition which is not allowing the Parliament to function, and accused them of not following the parliamentary procedures. “The main function of the Parliament is to discuss, debate and deliberate on Bills. The Opposition’s behaviour is creating a situation where legislation is becoming more and more difficult, as a result debate is not taking place,” said BJP spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal.

Responding to criticism about passing 10 Bills under 97 minutes, the BJP spokesperson said that it is the government’s responsibility to legislate and come up with laws for the benefit of the public.

Kharge’s press conference comes a day after 14 Opposition partiess signed a joint letter toughening their stand on the Pegasus issue, alleging that the Centre is attempting to divide the Opposition’s unity.

The Opposition has also said that discussions on farmers’ agitations due to the three anti-farmer laws should follow the discussion on Pegasus. Aam Aadmi Party, which skipped a meeting of most Opposition parties on Tuesday, also signed the statement.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday called for Opposition unity, underlining that the more it is united the more difficult it will be for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to suppress their voices.

The Opposition has been demanding a clarification from the government on the allegations of surveillance. The government earlier responded by saying that the Opposition was making “an issue out of a non-issue” and not allowing the Parliament to function.

The government has neither confirmed nor denied whether it has purchased the spyware. NSO Group has on multiple occasions said that it offers services only to vetted government clients. The company has disputed the leaked list of numbers as those targeted by its clients.

The list database was first obtained by France-based non-profit Forbidden Stories, which shared the information with the reporting partners. The devices of at least 67 of the numbers were analysed by Amnesty International and of these, 37 had signs of being hacked by Pegasus. Of these 37, 10 were in India.

To be sure, as the methodology of the investigation explains, the presence of a number does not indicate the individual’s phone was hacked — just that it was of interest.

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Thursday, October 21, 2021