Rahul Gandhi to host Opposition leaders over Pegasus row tomorrow
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is set to host members from 14 Opposition parties to discuss a collective strategy against the government over the Pegasus spyware controversy. They are also expected to discuss the possibility of holding a "Mock Parliament" on this issue. Work in the Parliament has been stalled for two weeks as the Opposition continues to protest, demanding a discussion on the matter.
The breakfast meet will take place around 9:30 am at the Constitution Club in Delhi, according to Congress party leader Mallikarjun Kharge. Representatives of parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Samajwadi Party (SP), Shiv Sena, Communist Party of India (Marxist), are likely to participate in the meeting, sources said, according to ThePrint.
This will be the second such meeting of Opposition leaders, aimed at mounting pressure on the central government. Fourteen Opposition leaders had met last week and held a joint press conference to address the snooping row. "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," Gandhi had said then.
Opposition parties have alleged that their voice is not being heard in the Parliament. They have also accused the Centre of rushing Bills without due discussions, amid uproar. Several crucial Bills were passed in both the Houses of Parliament in a matter of minutes over the past few days. Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien sarcastically inquired if the government was making "papri chaat."
Since this Parliament Session began on July 19, little work has been done due to Opposition protests over several key issues - including the Pegasus scandal and the farmers' protest. The Lok Sabha has been allowed to function for about seven hours out of the possible 54 hours, and Rs. 133 crore of taxpayers' money has been wasted because of the disruptions.
A global consortium of media organizations reported last month that some 50,000 mobile numbers were hacked using the spyware program Pegasus. The list included numbers of more than 300 Indian activists, journalists, Opposition leaders, among others. NSO Group, the company behind the software, says it only supplies the product to vetted government clients and their agencies.
The Indian government has denied any involvement in the snooping scandal. It called the allegations a "non-issue," saying there is no need to discuss them in the Parliament. Union IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had earlier read out a statement in the Parliament, rejecting the reports. Vaishnaw is notably named as one of the potential targets of the spyware.