New Delhi: The latest salvo in the 'papri chaat' spat between Trinamool MP Derek O' Brien and the Centre, was fired on Thursday afternoon with O'Brien tweeting a "Parliament update Aug 5" and throwing down a "challenge" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
He attached two images with his tweet - one listing bills passed, in either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, between July 26 and July 30, and the second between August 2 and August 4.
In each case, according to O'Brien's data, 22 bills were passed in an average time of 10 minutes.
The slowest was the Inland Vessels Bill - passed by the Rajya Sabha on August 2 after 28 minutes.
The quickest was the Coconut Development Board Bill - passed by the Rajya Sabha on July 30 after 60 seconds of discussion and by the Lok Sabha on August 4 after five minutes.
The "papri chaat" tweets began Monday, with O'Brien posting the list of bills passed in the second week of the monsoon session. In a deeply sarcastic accompanying message, he asked: "Passing legislation or making papri chaat?"
The government responded yesterday; Union Minister MA Naqvi declared the tweet had "maligned Parliament's dignity" and that Derek O'Brien "can have fish curry, if he's allergic to papri chaat".
Prime Minister Modi also chimed in - albeit with a measured response - and referred to "derogatory comments by a senior MP regarding passage of bills" during a meeting of BJP MPs.
This is not the first time O'Brien has slammed the government for rushing bills; in 2019 he asked: "Are we delivering pizzas...", in response to the "hurried" passage of the 'triple talaq' bill.
The monsoon session of Parliament, which began on July 19, has conducted little business because an unrelenting face-off between the government and the opposition; battle lines - already drawn over Covid and the farm laws - escalated sharply after the Pegasus scandal exploded last month.
On Tuesday the Prime Minister - for the second time in seven days - slammed the opposition for not allowing Parliament to function. Government "sources" last week claimed a ₹ 133 crore loss due to opposition-led protests, and that only 18 of a possible 107 work-hours were logged till then.
The Congress - for whom Rahul Gandhi is trying to stitch and hold a united opposition - has blamed the government for parliament's non-functioning, saying it had failed to agree to its demands.
Gandhi and the Congress have held two meetings, including a breakfast meeting, with opposition parties on this topic. It is not known if papri chaat was on the menu at either meet.
Opposition demands include a Supreme Court-monitored probe of the Pegasus scandal and a discussion in Parliament with the Prime Minister and Home Minister present.
The government has refused, insisting that surveillance of the alleged kind is impossible given existing checks and balances in India's legal framework.
Earlier today the Supreme Court heard a batch of petitions asking for formal investigations into the Pegasus allegations. A copy of these petitions will be sent to the centre, and a representative of the government will attend the next hearing - set for next week - the court said.
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