New Delhi: In another revelation, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi, poll strategist Prashant Kishor, TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee and new IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw are reported to be among the potential targets of Israeli spyware ‘Pegasus’.
The Wire report states that at least “two mobile phone accounts” used by Rahul Gandhi were among 300 verified Indian numbers listed as potential targets by an official Indian client of the Israeli surveillance technology vendor, NSO Group.
Earlier in the day, Congress party held a press conference wherein spokesperson Randeep Surjewala jibed that BJP should be renamed as Bharatiya Jasoos Party (India’s Snooping Party).
“Modi ji which terrorists are being fought by spying on Rahul Gandhi?” he questioned.
Here are some important statements in The Wire’s report:
- As for The Wire‘s report, no just Rahul Gandhi, the contact of five of his social friends/acquaintances were on the list of potential targets. It is reported that while the Congress Wayanad MP does not have these handsets any longer, his numbers “appear to have been selected for targeting – from mid-2018 to mid-2019”.
- In the Pegasus project reports, two serving Union Ministers were stated to be potential targets. According to The Wire, they are Prahlad Patel and Ashwini Vaishnaw. The newly inducted IT Minister appears to have been targeted for possible surveillance in 2017 when he was not a member of the BJP.
Earlier in the day, Union Minister for Information Technology Ashiwini Vaishnaw responded to the ‘Pegasus Project’ report in Lok Sabha.
“A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations were made around this story. The press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can’t be a coincidence,” IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in Lok Sabha.
- Notably, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC Abhishek Banerjee is also reported to be on the list. Another high-profile target is stated to be former close-aide of PM Modi & BJP Prashant Kishor who parted ways after the 2014 election and has worked for several opposition parties at different points after that. According to forensic analysis, Kishor’s phone was compromised as recently as July 14.
- In another important revelation, the family members of a woman who had accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in 2019 were also potentially targeted. Reportedly, around 11 phone numbers used by the woman, her husband, and two of her family members were on the list.
- Ashok Lavasa, the former Election Commissioner is also said to be targeted. He had opposed ECI’s decision to give a clean chit over poll complaints against PM Modi and Amit Shah in 2019.
Reports on ‘Pegasus Project’ have alleged that over 40 journalists, 3 prominent opposition leaders, 1 constitutional authority, 2 serving ministers in the Narendra Modi government, current and former heads and officials of security organizations, and a large number of businessmen were part of the list of potential or past victims of the Pegasus project.
The Guardian and The Washington Post claimed that many governments of the world including the Indian government, are spying on eminent personalities through a special software named Pegasus which is sold by the Israeli surveillance company NSO to the governments of various countries.
While the Opposition parties target the Union government over the claims, the Centre has vehemently denied these allegations.