Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday accused the opposition parties of shooting “self-goals” for political gains as he renewed his attack on them over the continued disruptions of Parliament, saying the country cannot become hostage to such “selfish and anti-national politics”.
As the prime minister used a hockey reference to target the opposition hours after the Indian men’s team scored a spectacular 5-4 win against Germany to clinch the Olympics Bronze medal, the Congress accused the government of trying to “muzzle” the opposition’s voice, but said it will not be cowed down and will keep fighting to raise people’s issues, including farmers’ problems and the Pegasus snooping controversy.
“Those who are worried only for their position can’t stop India now. The new India is after ‘padak’ (medals) and not ‘pad’ (posts). Hard work and not the family will be the way to progress in New India,” Modi said. He also accused the opposition parties of trying to stop development of the country.
While the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said Parliament proceedings are being disrupted over the Pegasus issue, alleging the government is shying away from a discussion on it, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted that the ruling party is ready for a “meaningful” debate in Parliament be it on the Pegasus issue or those concerning farmers. Prasad also claimed there is no “prima facie evidence” to suggest that certain phone numbers were indeed tapped.
The Monsoon session of Parliament, which commenced on July 19, has been marked by persistent disruptions by the opposition over their unrelenting demand for a discussion on the Pegasus row and farmers’ issues though the Government managed to get some bills passed amid the din. The session is scheduled to conclude on August 13.
“On the one hand, our country is scoring goal after goal of victory, and on the other, some people, due to political self-interest, are doing things which make it seem that they are scoring self-goals,” Modi said while interacting with beneficiaries of the Centre’s food security scheme in Uttar Pradesh through video conference as the state observed the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana Day.
In his televised address, he recalled other events that have taken place on this date the revocation of Article 370 that had granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir two years ago and the “bhumi poojan for the Ram temple in Ayodhya last year besides the hockey team’s bronze medal effort at the Olympics this time.
Targeting the opposition parties, he said, They are not concerned about what the country wants, what it is achieving or how it is changing. They are continuously insulting Parliament of India for their self-interest.”
While very citizen is working hard to get out of the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced, the opposition parties are competing to stop work that is in the interest of the country, he charged.
“The great people of this country cannot become hostage to such selfish and anti-national politics. No matter how much these people try to stop the development of the country, this country is not going to stop, Modi said.
They are engaged in stopping the proceedings of Parliament but 130 crore people are engaged in not allowing them to stop the country.” “Bharat chall pada hai (India is on the move),” he said, adding the country is progressing rapidly on every front now, facing all challenges.
At his news conference, Prasad also said the opposition could have sought clarification from the Information Technology(IT) Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw when he made a statement in Parliament on the snooping controversy which would have led to a debate but its members, he noted, instead tore the statement. He alleged that it is not the Congress’ ethos to respect Parliament, and the opposition party would allow it to function only so long as it “subserves” the interests of its ruling family.
“The reason for that is the Congress functions more like a private firm compared to a political party, and its sole aim is to safeguard the interests of one dynasty,” he said.
“Is there any prime facie evidence that (phone) numbers were indeed put under surveillance,” Prasad asked, noting that Justice Arun Mishra, who retired from the Supreme Court in September 2020 and is now chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, has said a mobile number of his allegedly put under surveillance was surrendered by him way back in 2014.
The latest Pegasus story had named Mishra as among those who might have been targeted by the snooping spyware.With opposition parties pointing out that the BJP had also stalled Parliament when the Congress-led UPA was in power, Prasad sought to draw a distinction saying that the then government denied alleged scams involving 2G spectrum allocation and auction of coal blocks. The Supreme Court had quashed the 2G allocations, he noted.
The ongoing disruption of Parliament has cost over Rs 130 crore, Prasad added. With the opposition attacking the government for getting bills passed in Parliament amid uproar, he suggested that legislations were passed in a similar manner in 2007. All shameful Parliamentary lows are linked to the Congress, Prasad alleged.
Kharge told reporters that the opposition is demanding a discussion on the Pegasus issue because it impinges on national security, and citizens’ freedom and privacy. Media, armed forces and judges have been named as potential targets, he claimed. “Revelations are being made one after the other. Why is the government running away? They are saying the opposition is not ready and therefore, a discussion is not happening,” he said.
“If attempts are made to crush and muzzle our issues by targeting us, using threats, fear or pressurising us, the Congress and a united opposition are not going to budge and will keep fighting.” His remarks came after a Parliament security officer complained against a Trinamool Congress (TMC) member for creating ruckus in the House Chamber after Rajya Sabha was adjourned.
Kharge also claimed that the BJP caused over 90 per cent disruption when it was in the opposition during the UPA regime.”They are telling us, opposition is not letting the House run and not cooperating.” A notice under Rule 267 calls for setting aside of the business of the day to take up discussion on the issue being raised. The opposition leader said the precedent is there for discussions and yet a debate on the Pegasus issue is not being allowed.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also attacked the prime minister over the Pegasus snooping row, saying the Israeli spyware was a tool to silence people. Addressing a ‘Sansad Gehrao’ protest in Delhi by the Indian Youth Congress, he targeted the prime minister over the issue of employment too.
“Your mobile phone is your voice. Narendra Modi has put the idea of Pegasus in the mobile phone of every youth, not just mine. This idea is that if you speak the truth, Narendra Modi and Pegasus are there in your phones,” he said.
“Pegasus is a way to silence the voice of people,” he added.