Fourteen opposition parties, led by the Congress, met in Delhi today to chalk out a strategy to take on the centre over the Pegasus phone-hacking scandal, which has triggered massive protests and forced repeated adjournments to the monsoon session of parliament.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi – whose name was on the list of alleged surveillance targets – was part of the meeting, as were leaders from the Shiv Sena, the CPI and CPM, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the AAP and DMK.
The NCP, the National Conference and the Muslim League were also part of the meeting, as were smaller outfits like the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Kerala Congress, the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi from Tamil Nadu, and the Samajwadi Party.
Representatives of these 14 parties are to hold a joint press conference at 12.30 pm.
This comes a day after Prime Minister Modi slammed the Congress for “not letting parliament run”.
The Prime Minister accused the opposition party of deliberately spurning attempts at resolving an impasse that has seen Parliament conduct almost no work in this session. The Lok Sabha was adjourned a staggering nine times yesterday, amid continuous protests by opposition MPs.
Today’s meeting comes after seven opposition parties wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday, asking him to direct the centre to discuss Pegasus and farmers’ protests in parliament.
The letter was signed by Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, the Akali Dal, the National Conference, and the CPI and CPIM, as well as Sharad Pawar’s NCP.
“We, members of parliament (MPs) of various political parties, are writing to you to seek an appointment to apprise you of two disturbing developments, including the complete stonewalling of demands of the peasantry to repeal the three agricultural laws as well as use of Israeli spyware Pegasus to tape telephones of politicians, journalists and activists,” the letter read.
The Congress was not a signatory to that letter.
The Congress has, however, insisted the centre is to blame for the non-functioning of parliament, as it is not agreeing to opposition parties’ “united” demand for a discussion on the Pegasus issue.
Demands for the Pegasus row to be discussed in parliament have also come from Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met the Prime Minister in Delhi yesterday and, among other issues, pitched for a Supreme Court-led inquiry into the allegations.
Ms Banerjee, whose nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee is also among the potential targets, has already announced a judicial panel to investigate the Pegasus row.
The centre has refused to order a probe into the Pegasus allegations, insisting surveillance of the alleged kind is impossible given existing checks and balances within the country’s legal framework.
Disclaimer: The NSO group which sells Pegasus to governments and government agencies only, says it is not connected to the leaked database of phone numbers. The Indian government has said there is “no substance” in these reports.