The Pegasus Project has been a major part of headlines globally for the past month, also making its way to the corridors of Indian politics.
With the names of several Indian citizens appearing on the alleged snooping list, the story has proven to be one of the major talking points in the political discourse recently.
The allegations are creating waves in the Indian democratic framework from the parliament to even the supreme court. While the apex court has agreed to hear a plea on the matter, the opposition has taken to the parliament to register its protest.
With the majority of the monsoon session being “washed away” due to the tussle between the government and the opposition, there has been no proper discussion on the matter, neither in the parliament nor in the IT select committee.
But is the “obstructionist” strategy really helping the opposition in its quest for power? Is the Pegasus issue really that electorally fruitful for the parties on the other side of the house?
While there is no doubt about the fact that the allegations, if true, are quite serious and directly impact the basic fundamental rights of the citizens of this country which are guaranteed by the constitution.
There should definitely be an independent probe into the allegations so that the truth comes out, and many governments across the globe have done the same in their respective countries.
However, the central government seems unwilling to order a probe, which has forced the opposition to turn on the heat inside the parliament.
But the spying allegations are not the sole issue that the country is facing. Fuel prices are at an all-time high, inflation is rising, and the government’s Covid management has been far from perfect.
These problems have directly impacted millions of people across the country, and almost every citizen has felt the pinch. If you go to a village in rural Uttar Pradesh and try to explain to a villager that the government is spying on people using software named Pegasus, threatening the basic foundations of democracy.
They will hardly pay any interest. This is the reality of electoral literacy in India, howsoever unfortunate it may seem.
But if you tell the same person about the rise in Petrol and Diesel prices and the health crisis that country has faced over the past year, they will echo your concerns because of the universal and direct impact that such issues have.
This makes them way more significant in the public discourse and hence much more electorally important. This monsoon session of the parliament is happening right in the middle of one of the most challenging times that the country and its economy have ever faced since independence, which greatly increases its relevance.
The government obviously does not want to face the heat of accountability on the issues mentioned above, as these will put a bigger dent in their image among the general public.
While the opposition is marking its protest pretty evidently in the parliament by stopping it from functioning, it is also inadvertently providing a smokescreen or a way out to the government by not forcing it to answer questions about Covid-19 management and the price rise.
Therefore, the government would like the fact that the opposition goes on obstructing the house on the issue of snooping so that it can get away without having to answer for other issues that have larger public appeal. Thus, in a way, the opposition’s disruption is actually helping the government.
Also, the government can present a counter-narrative to the public that it is the opposition that is not letting the house function and hence wasting the taxpayers’ money.
All of this makes the current situation quite complex. The opposition needs to find a way to encircle the government on issues that have a greater connection to the public (such as Covid, Inflation, etc.) because ultimately, the opposition needs some electoral gain.
At the same time, simultaneously try to put pressure on the government concerning the spying allegations so that this matter does not lose its relevance in the public discourse, which it rightly should not as it threatens the very soul of democracy.
Suppose the opposition does not creatively capitalize on the sentiment of despair that currently persists in the country because of the pandemic and the government’s faulty policies.
In that case, it might just miss the bus to a victory in 2024. The one thing that the opposition desperately needs is a shift in the popular narrative in its favor.