NEW DELHI: The ongoing WhatsApp snooping controversy got curiouser on Sunday with the Congress claiming its leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had received a alert from the social media platform a few months ago informing her about the possible hacking of her mobile instrument.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, after dropping the bomb, accused the government of being involved in a “surveillance racket”. Whether or not Priyanka’s mobile was infected by the Israeli Pegasus spyware was not clear. The BJP, however, pushed back strongly, rubbishing the allegation and accusing the Congress of living in an imaginary world.
“I want to say that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time,” Surjewala said while responding to a question about NCP leader Praful Patel and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee receiving alerts from WhatsApp about the security breach. Sources said WhatsApp had informed the Centre in September that 121 Indian users were targeted by Pegasus.
The IT ministry, however, contended that the information was both inadequate and incomplete. Having stepped on the pedal, the Congress is planning to take the issue to the next level by pushing the government to share information to two parliamentary standing committees on home affairs and information-technology headed by party leaders Anand Sharma and Shashi Tharoor, respectively. Sharma said the issue will be taken up at the panel’s next meeting on November 15.
The Union home secretary is scheduled to brief the panel on the situation in J&K in the next meeting. “In that meeting this issue will also be discussed,” he added.
Tharoor too said his panel will seek clarifications from the government, adding: “We must not, at any price, become a surveillance state like China.”
AIMIM chief and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi demanded that the Centre ask Israel, not WhatsApp, how Pegasus listened to conversations of Indians.
The Congress on Sunday claimed its leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had received a message from WhatsApp informing her that her phone was suspected to have been hacked and accused the government of being involved in a “surveillance racket”, but the ruling BJP hit back saying the opposition party was imagining things that don’t exist.
“I want to tell that Priyanka Gandhi also received a similar message from WhatsApp around the same time,” said Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.
Among politicians, NCP leader Praful Patel and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have accepted receiving messages from WhatsApp about the breach. “WhatsApp sent messages to different people whose phones were hacked. One such message was also received from WhatsApp on the telephone of Priyanka Gandhi. WhatsApp did not say that the phone was hacked in this fashion by an illegal Pegasus software,” he said.
He said that party general secretary deleted the message but she realised when the whole issue came in the public domain. Attacking the government for adopting a conspiratorial silence on the matter, he said: “A sinister role is being adopted by the government. The question is do people in India have a right to privacy and the rule of law or is right to privacy a joke to be trashed by Modi government as per its whims and fancies.”
Ridiculing the Congress claim, BJP IT department head Amit Malviya said, “Haven’t we seen Congress imagining things that don’t exist? Remember them claiming that Rahul Gandhi’s life was in danger when a green light, off a video camera, flashed on his face during a media briefing. Well, that is the level of their leaders’ credibility in public life,” he tweeted.