Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former election commissioner Ashok Lavasa, poll strategist Prashant Kishor and BJP minister Prahlad Singh Patel were among those whose numbers were listed as potential targets for hacking of Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’, an international media consortium reported. According to them, over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and one sitting judge besides scores of businesspersons and activists in India could have been targeted for hacking through the spyware.
The issue of “snooping” using Pegasus spyware snowballed into a massive political row in Parliament and outside as various parties demanded a thorough investigation and sacking of Home Minister Amit Shah, while the government maintained it had nothing to do with it.
The Congress accused the government of “treason” and held Shah responsible for the snooping and hacking of phones of journalists, judges and politicians, and demanded a probe into the “role of the prime minister” in the entire matter as well. The demand for a probe came from opposition parties, including the Congress, TMC, NCP, Left parties, RJD and Shiv Sena.
The BJP hit back at the Congress and claimed “there is not a shred of evidence” to link either the ruling party or the Modi dispensation with the matter. BJP leader and former IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned the credentials of those behind the story as well as its timing, coming a day before Parliament’s Monsoon Session that began on Monday, as he accused the opposition party of hitting a “new low” in making baseless allegations.
The government, on its part, categorically rejected the charges, with IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw asserting in the Lok Sabha that illegal surveillance was not possible with checks and balances in the country’s laws, and alleged that attempts were being made to malign Indian democracy. Vaishnaw’s name also figures in the list.
Home Minister Amit Shah also lashed out at the opposition Congress and international organisations, saying such “obstructers” and “disrupters” will not be able to derail India’s development trajectory with their conspiracies.