Pegasus snoopgate to spook upcoming Budget session

The stage has been set for a stormy Budget Session with the opposition gearing up against the government on the Pegasus snooping issue. The Congress is reaching out to the opposition to devise a joint strategy to corner the government.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi set the ball rolling after he said, “Modi Govt bought Pegasus to spy on our primary democratic institutions, politicians and public. Govt functionaries, opposition leaders, armed forces, judiciary all were targeted by these phone tappings. This is treason. Modi Govt has committed treason.”

Not only the Congress but other political parties are planning to corner the government on the snooping row in the country.

Former Congress Chief Minister in Maharashtra Prithvi Raj Chavan said, “Government must answer which spy agency procured it and who authorised it.”

As per reports, the spyware Pegasus not only breaches the WhatsApp as also the phone but is able to turn over the cellphones camera and microphone to capture all activities in the vicinity of the phone, besides hacking all the security features of the phone, including listening to, and sending passwords, contact lists, calendar events, text messages, and live voice calls. It also can plant fake material into the cellphone to falsely incriminate people.

Leader of the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge said, “We will seek the view of other political parties and then the further strategy will be decided.”

The Congress has said that the Prime Minister is directly involved in it and alleged that the Modi government purchased Pegasus Spyware in 2017 and other military technology as the “centrepieces” of a package, including “weapons and intelligence gear worth roughly $2 billion” from Israel during PM Modi’s visit. It is not a coincidence that the Budget of National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) reporting to the NSA went up from Rs 33 crore to Rs 333 crore in 2017-18.

The Congress has alleged that the Modi government deployed Pegasus spyware for snooping and spying upon Rahul Gandhi, former PM Deve Gowda, former Chief Ministers — Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy and its own leaders former BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia; BJP Cabinet Minister Prahlad Singh Patel, his wife and staff; Present IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw & his wife; OSD of Union Minister Smriti Irani; Abhishek Banerjee, MP & nephew of Ms Mamta Banerjee; Praveen Togadia, former head of VHP and others. It even said Supreme Court judges, Election Commission of India; former CBI Director Alok Verma and his wife and family; K.K. Sharma, head of BSF, BSF IG Jagdish Maithani, RAW officer Jitender Kumar Ojha and his wife; Indian Army Officers — Col. Mukul Dev and Col Amit Kumar were also targeted by Pegasus.

The party said even advocates, activists and journalists of prominent media organisations were included in the snooping list.

The government dismissed the reports when the snooping row first surfaced. IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw attacked the reports of India’s Pegasus use as “baseless” and “highly sensational”. Both the Home Ministry and Defence Ministry had denied reports of the purchase.

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