Experts on Modi's Clashes With Opposition: 'Parliament is Nation's Discussion Forum'
09:22 GMT 27.07.2021 (Updated: 16:06 GMT 27.07.2021)
The monsoon session of the Indian Parliament commenced on 19 July, one day after a forensics report claimed that over 300 Indians had fallen victim of the Pegasus spyware attack. Opposition leaders have since demanded PM Modi's government respond to snooping allegations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday blamed the Congress party for disrupting Parliamentary proceedings by holding placards with slogans and demanding the government prioritise certain issues.
Addressing a meeting with parliamentarians from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Modi has directed his party members to "expose this behaviour of the Congress and some opposition parties in front of the media and the public," NDTV reported citing anonymous insider sources.
Opposition parties including the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) party have been demanding that hot topics like the Pegasus
spyware attack on Indian nationals, February's Delhi riots,
and the farmers' protests
must be prioritised by the government.
Speaking to Sputnik, Shivaji Sarkar, policy maker and director of Mangalayatan University in Aligarh, said that nobody, especially the government, should get rattled by opposition parties chanting slogans.
"The Parliament is the nation's discussion forum where elected representatives of the common people reach to discuss important issues. Raising slogans, igniting heated debates by the opposition to drag the ruling government under the spotlight are all part of parliamentary proceedings in India. It is the job of the opposition parties," Sarkar said.
The BJP-led government accused the Congress of undermining the parliamentary tradition of introducing newly inducted ministers into the cabinet on the first day of the session, as Modi was unable to complete his speech on 19 July amid a huge scene whipped up by the opposition over a range of issues. However, the Congress said the BJP was "guilty of doing the same during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government."
On the Pegasus snooping issue, the BJP has been avoiding the discussion in Parliament with the government considering the report as "an attempt to malign the Indian democracy with its well established institutions."
However, the Congress is adamant that a parliamentary panel be set up to probe the malware scandal.
"Based on investigations by an international group of journalists, The Wire has reported that there was an Indian client of the NSO Group. Who was the 'Indian client?'" P. Chidambaram, senior Congress leader and former federal home minister, asked.
"I am certain the client’s name will be revealed soon. Until then, I suppose the government will brazen out the allegations of snooping," Chidambaram emphasised.
The Congress and other opposition parties have also been pressing the ruling benches to discuss the three controversial farm laws in Parliament. "The entire country knows these farm laws only favour 2-3 big businessmen,” Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader said.
Last week, the Congress boycotted an all-party meeting to review the COVID-19 situation. The BJP government also blamed the Congress for preventing more people from attending.
On Tuesday, Congress member Anand Sharma said that if the government wishes to end the current sequence of Parliamentary proceedings, it must address issues being highlighted by opposition parliamentarians.
Maintaining that the government cannot shut down angry voices and protests, political commentator Vinod Sharma said that such situations are common as part of this ongoing perennial tussle between the ruling and opposition parties.
"The government should not agitate without debate. Quieting the opposition, rather accusing them of disrupting the Parliament is 'undemocratic,'" Sharma added.
Sarkar added that while the reasons behind PM Modi's irritation could be current issues like the Pegasus attack and farm laws, his criticism of the Congress and other opposing parties is similar to that exhibited by all previous ruling governments.
Experts pointed out the argument put forth by the then leaders of the house Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, when the United Progressive Alliance was in power between 2004-14 and the BJP was the opposition. Swaraj, then leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, declared that “not allowing Parliament to function is also a form of democracy, like any other form." Jaitley, Sushma's counterpart in the upper house of Parliament, said in 2012: "Disruption should not be described as preventing work from being done, because what we are doing is very important work itself.”