New Delhi: In a rare show of solidarity, as many as 14 opposition parties came together Wednesday over the Pegasus row, demanding that the matter be discussed in both Houses of Parliament. Led by Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, the opposition leaders held a meeting to discuss the issue, which was followed by a joint press conference.
Those part of the meeting included leaders from Shiv Sena, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Samajwadi Party, National Conference, Aam Aadmi Party, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Indian Union Muslim League, apart from the Congress.
“Today, India’s entire opposition is standing here. Why did we have to come here? It’s because our voice is being stifled in the Parliament. We have clearly been told that the government is not interested in discussing Pegasus in the Parliament,” Gandhi said.
“I want to ask the people of this country: Modi has put a weapon in your phones. The weapon has been used against me, against several other politicians and against members of the press as well as activists. Why then is this issue not being discussed in the Parliament?”
Rahul Gandhi’s name was among the many identified as alleged targets of a long ‘snooping list’. According to an exposé by a global consortium of media agencies, including The Wire in India, politicians, world leaders, journalists, activists and civil servants were allegedly targeted using Pegasus, a sophisticated spyware owned by Israeli tech company NSO that claims to sell its product to vetted governments and their agencies.
In India, the list of alleged targets include newly appointed IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa and political strategist Prashant Kishore, among others.
Addressing reports of PM Modi telling BJP MPs that the Congress is “not letting the Parliament function”, Gandhi went on to say: “It is being said about us that we are disturbing the Parliament. This is a lie. We are only fulfilling our duty. And this is not just me as a Congress leader saying this… every single opposition leader will tell you this.”
Leaders of other parties also spoke as they emphasised on their rare moment of unity against the Modi government. “The entire Opposition is and will remain united on the issues of national security and farm laws,” said Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.
The multiple opposition leaders had met in the Parliament chambers of Congress’ leader of Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge to strategise their plan of action on the Pegasus controversy.
Among those present were NCP’s Supriya Sule, RJD’S Manoj Jha and AAP’s Bhagwant Mann, among others.
Gandhi also tweeted a photograph of the meeting, which took place earlier in the day, saying: “Sitting with the entire opposition is extremely humbling. Amazing experience, wisdom and insight in everyone present.”
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 28, 2021
Sources who were present at the meeting told ThePrint that Gandhi emphasised on “not letting the BJP defame opposition by suggesting that they are not letting the Parliament run”.
“If this issue is not escalated in Parliament right now, it will die down and won’t ever be discussed again,” Gandhi said, according to a Congress leader at the meeting.
While the Trinamool Congress was not part of the meeting, party spokesperson and MP Derek O’Brien told the media they are “united with the opposition over the issue and there is no question of a divide”.
Earlier this week, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool government in West Bengal set up a judicial commission of inquiry into the alleged Pegasus phone-hacking scandal.
Letter to President
Wednesday’s opposition meeting comes a day after Gandhi led a meeting of Lok Sabha members from various opposition parties to discuss the issue of unity in the two Houses over the Pegasus issue.
Seven opposition parties had also written to President Ram Nath Kovind Tuesday seeking his intervention in the matter, asking him to direct the central government to discuss in Parliament the farmers’ issues and the alleged hacking controversy.
While the Congress was not a signatory to this letter, the BSP, RLP, SAD, NC, CPI, CPM and NCP signed it.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)