Rahul Gandhi, Opposition leaders cycle to Parliament protesting fuel prices
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi today led a breakfast meeting of Opposition leaders to discuss a joint strategy against the central government in the Parliament. Gandhi, 51, joined by other Opposition leaders, also rode a cycle to the Parliament House - a move aimed at drawing attention toward rising fuel prices. The ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament has been marred by Opposition protests.
"One of the ways to draw the attention (of the government) to the issue is by cycling to Parliament. People of India are struggling," Gandhi told fellow Opposition leaders this morning at the meet. Just last week, the Congress leader drove a tractor to the Parliament in support of the farmers, who have been protesting for months against three new farm laws.
Today's meeting was attended by Mahua Moitra of the Trinamool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party's Supriya Sule, Shiv Sena's Sanjay Raut, and Kanimozhi of the DMK. Representatives of the RJD, SP, CPI(M), CPI, IUML, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Kerala Congress (M), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, National Conference, and the Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), also participated in the meeting.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party skipped the meeting. AAP leader Sanjay Singh, however, said the party stands by farmers and also wants to raise the issue of the Pegasus snooping scandal. "Attending or not attending (the meet) is not important. Whenever a discussion is held in Parliament, we will support the farmers and raise the issue of snooping row."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Opposition, accusing it of not allowing the Parliament to function. "Parliament is being insulted by the acts of the Opposition in both Houses. The person who snatched the paper and tore it is not repentant of his acts," he told his party's MPs. A Trinamool MP had earlier snatched IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw's papers in the Parliament.
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 able 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.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting in and around Delhi against three new agricultural laws. They are also currently holding a "Kisan Parliament" at the Jantar Mantar near the Parliament, demanding a roll-back of the laws. Opposition parties, including the Congress and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally Shiromani Akali Dal, have been calling for a discussion on the matter in the Parliament.
Phone numbers of more than 300 Indian activists, journalists, Opposition leaders, among others, were hacked using the spyware program Pegasus, according to an investigation by media organizations around the world. The developers of the spyware say they only supply the product to vetted government clients and their agencies. The Indian government, however, has denied any involvement in the scandal, calling the allegations a "non-issue."