Congress, BJP move privilege motion against each other over Facebook issue

New Delhi: The tone for the upcoming monsoon session is set as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress have both moved privilege motions against each other over the alleged misuse of social media website Facebook by the ruling alliance.

While leaders of the BJP, who are part of the standing committee on information technology, have moved a privilege motion against the panel’s chairperson Shashi Tharoor, Congress party has demanded that there should be a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe on the issue to fix responsibility on the allegations made in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report.

“Have moved privilege motion against Rahul Gandhi and Shashi Tharoor because in Facebook row he accused BJP of wrongdoings. Accusing the BJP is like accusing all its MPs. Hence it’s a question of privilege because he questioned the intention, integrity, and honesty of MPs,” tweeted Nishikant Dubey, member of standing committee on IT and BJP Member of Parliament (MP) from Godda constituency in Jharkhand.

Members of the BJP have repeatedly alleged that Tharoor has been misusing his position as the chairman of the parliamentary committee on IT as he had decided to invite officials of Facebook before the standing committee. BJP leaders alleged that the decision to summon can only be taken after a deliberation in the standing committee when all members are present and the chairperson cannot unilaterally take a decision. However, the allegations have been refuted by Tharoor who has also moved a privilege motion against members of BJP.

In the letter, Tharoor has said the motion has been filed with respect to ‘disparaging remarks’ made by Dubey on social media platform regarding the former’s decision to summon a parliamentary meeting on the issue.

“Nishikant Dubey’s derogatory remarks have not only brought disrepute to my position as a Member of Parliament and Chairman but also to an institution that mirrors the will of the people of our country,” Tharoor alleged in the letter, a copy of which was also marked to Sunil Kumar Singh, chairman of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Privileges, Lok Sabha.

Tharoor has also urged Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to issue necessary directions to initiate proceedings against Dubey for committing a breach of privilege on multiple accounts and contempt of the House.The problem between BJP and Congress members of IT standing committee started after Tharoor tweeted on Saturday that he was looking at the possibility of inviting officials of Facebook over a news report that appeared on Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The next meeting of the standing committee on IT could likely take place on 1 September and 2 September.

Ahead of the monsoon session, which is likely to begin in a fortnight, opposition parties are stepping up pressure demanding a scrutiny over recent findings on Facebook. While both Congress and Communist Party of India (CPM) have demanded a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe on the issue, other opposition parties, including Trinamool Congress, have demanded that Facebook should respond to the charges.

Political charge against the union government on the issue is being led by Gandhi who has accused the ruling party of ‘controlling’ Facebook and Whatsapp in India. “In the last 4 months, around 2 crore people have lost their jobs. The future of 2 crore families is in the dark. The truth about unemployment and destruction of the economy cannot be hidden from the country by peddling fake news and hatred on Facebook,” Gandhi tweeted on Wednesday morning while sharing a news report.

In response to the recent controversy, Facebook has maintained that it prohibits hate speech and content that incites violence without regard to anyone’s political position or party affiliation.

(PTI contributed to story)

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