Upping the ante against the government, former Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi on Friday described Pegasus as a weapon and demanded resignation of Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
He also demanded a Supreme Court probe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Addressing the media outside Parliament, Rahul Gandhi said, “Pegasus is classified by the Israeli State as a weapon and that weapon is supposed to be used against the terrorist. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and Union Home Minister have used this weapon against the Indian State and against our institutions.”
He alleged that the government used it politically. “They have used it in Karnataka, they have used it to scuttle probes, they have used it against the Supreme Court and against all the institutions of this country,” he alleged.
Targeting the government, Rahul Gandhi said, “The only word for this is treason. There is no other word for this.”
“And this has to be investigated and the Home Minister has to resign,” the Congress leader demanded.
He also accused the Prime Minister of using this (Pegasus) weapon against the people of the country and also to scuttle the probe of the Rafale fighter jet deal.
The Congress leader also said that “they tapped my phone”. “This is not about my privacy, not about the privacy of Rahul Gandhi. I am an opposition leader and I raise issues of public. This is an attack on that. This is an attack on the voice of the people,” he said.
He said: “A judicial enquiry and SC enquiry should be ordered on Narendra Modi because no one else can authorise Pegasus. This authorisation can only be done by the Prime Minister and the Home Minister.”
The alleged snooping issue has triggered a stormy start to the Monsoon Session after a global collaborative investigative project revealed that Israeli company NSO Groups’ Pegasus spyware was targeted over 300 mobile phone numbers in India, including that of two ministers in the Narendra Modi government, three Opposition leaders, constitutional authority, several journalist and business persons.
It snowballed on Tuesday after it came to fore that in July 2019, phone numbers of Karnataka’s then Deputy Chief Minister G. Parameshwara and the personal secretaries of then Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, were selected as possible targets for surveillance.
The Congress on Monday 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.
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
Slamming the government, the Congress MP from Kerala’s Wayanad said, “Look, I have said very clearly that there is gross theft in the Rafale deal and none of you people supported me.
“But the truth has a way of coming out. There is an enquiry in France and you will see the Prime Minister himself is responsible for corruption in Rafale.”
He said that the question is why at the last minute when the CBI director (Alok Verma) was about to file an FIR, why was his phone tapped and why was he blackmailed” Who did it. That is the question?
He said the answer is that the entire state is under attack. “And this is not an attack on Rahul Gandhi or an individual. It is an attack on Indian state,” he said.
He said that if the government did not do this then some other governments either in Japan, Israel, Uganda, Russia would have done this and this should be enquired.
Firing salvos at the government, Rahul Gandhi said, “Why is the Prime Minister not talking about the number of people who have been tapped and an inquiry will be done? And they should answer if they have bought this or not?”
He further claimed that Pegasus has to be bought by the nation state, the file has to be signed at the minimum by the Home Minister and probably by the Prime Minister. “Pegasus cannot be sold to the military of the country but to the government of the country. Please read the contract. It’s sold government to government.”
To a question over the farmers agitation, Rahul Gandhi said, “Our stand on farmers is clear these Bills must be withdrawn. There is nothing to talk, only thing is that these Bills should be withdrawn.”
When pressed further about his phone on surveillance, he said, “It is not only about this phone, my all phones are tapped. And I get phone calls from IB people that my phone is tapped. They call me and say that beware your phone is tapped. My security people tell me that they have to debrief their seniors what I say or do. This has happened to me three to four times.”