Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is all set to lead another meeting of opposition leaders this morning amid disruptions and protests in parliament over the Pegasus snooping row, the handling of the pandemic, farmers’ agitation, among other issues. This is the second time in a week that Mr Gandhi, 51, is holding such a meeting as several opposition parties unite against the government.
This morning, 18 political parties have been invited. They will discuss the option of holding a “mock parliament” outside.
“All floor leaders and other MPs will join the meeting,” the Congress’s Mallikarjun Kharge told reporters on Monday.
Union Minister Rajnath Singh had dialled up Mr Kharge, the leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha, on Monday afternoon to seek his support amid protests, sources said.
The government should allow discussions in parliament, Mr Kharge had told him.
While the monsoon session of parliament began on July 19, parliament has only 18 hours out of possible 107 hours in the first two weeks. More than Rs 133 crore in taxpayer money has been lost because of disruptions, government sources said on Saturday.
The opposition has been demanding a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the Pegasus snooping row and the allegations that Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishore, judges, activists and even ministers were potential targets of an Israeli spyware.
The government has dismissed these demands, saying a statement read out in parliament by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnav – one of the potential targets of the hacking – was sufficient. For days, the BJP has laboured to label the snooping of the phones a “non-issue”.
Last week, Rahul Gandhi addressed a meeting of of 14 opposition parties. “The entire opposition is here… our voice is being curtailed in parliament. We are only asking if the Pegasus software was bought and if it was used against certain persons in India,” Mr Gandhi later asked, addressing the media.
“I want to ask the people – there is a weapon Narendra Modi has planted in your phones… used against opposition leaders, journalists, activists… should there not be a discussion in Parliament?” he questioned.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who was part of the meeting, stressed the opposition is “united in our stand to protect issues of national security, democracy and farmers’ welfare”.