A special press conference by eight Union Ministers was little more than “faff”, Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien said on Thursday, countering accusations that the opposition had forced the monsoon session of parliament to end two days prematurely.
Brushing away their allegations as bluster, Mr O’Brien pitched eight questions to the ministers ranging from the Pegasus snooping scandal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s limited participation in parliament activities.
“Why was the Prime Minister missing during the OBC debate in parliament? The former Prime Ministers Deve Gowda ji and Manmohan Singh ji were there. Where was Prime Minister Modi?” the Trinamool MP said.
8 Ministers just addressed a press conference.
To them, we ask.
Answer even one of these 8 questions. Try.
Then talk to us about #Parliament.
The United Opposition have a strong case. You are full of faff.
— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) August 12, 2021
“Why were 38 bills passed in both houses with an average discussion time of 10 minutes per bill? Why has only one out of 10 bills gone from the Lok Sabha for parliamentary scrutiny? Why are almost 4 bills out of every 10 bills are ordinances? Earlier it was one or two,” he said.
“Why has the Prime Minister of India not answered a single question in the Rajya Sabha in the last five years? Manmohan Singh ji answered 22 questions. Why in two years, the government hasn’t elected a Deputy Speaker in the Lok Sabha?” Mr O’Brien asked.
“Why did you not allow the opposition a discussion on Pegasus, internal security, repeal of farm laws. Government must have its way, the opposition must have its say. Whose business is it to run parliament? Is it the government’s responsibility or the opposition’s responsibility? And who is the government accountable to? The people,” he added.
Much of the monsoon session in parliament has been wasted this time as the deadlock between PM Modi’s administration and the opposition over the Pegasus snooping scandal and other issues showed no signs of a thaw.
Since parliament convened on July 19, the opposition has been demanding a discussion and an independent inquiry led by a Supreme Court judge – serving or retired – into reports that an Israeli spyware sold only to governments was used to hack phones of opposition leaders, judges, activists and even ministers.
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”.
On Thursday, the ministers said the opposition must apologise for “disruptive (and) threatening behaviour” that forced Parliament to close two days early, as they countered allegations “outsiders not part of Parliament security were brought in to manhandle opposition MPs, including women”.
“We had to take a decision to end the monsoon session early because, and I am quoting the opposition, (they were) literally threatening that if we attempt to pass other bills (after the OBC and Insurance bills) there will be even more serious damage in Parliament,” Pralhad Joshi, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, said.