BENGALURU: In continued revelations under ‘Pegasus Project’ through investigations by an international consortium of journalists into illegal surveillance, it was alleged on Tuesday that illegal snooping could have helped topple the JDS-Congress coalition government in Karnataka in 2019. In its third tranche of reports on the alleged illegal use of Pegasus spyware,
The Wire reported that phone numbers of coalition government’s deputy chief minister G Parameshwara, personal secretaries of then chief minister HD Kumaraswamy and former chief minister Siddaramaiah, and a gunman working with former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda were among the people whose phones were tapped.
While the report suggests that it was not possible to conclusively establish that these phones were infected or subjected to an attempted hack since they did not undergo digital forensic testing, personal secretaries of Kumaraswamy and Siddaramaiah, Gowda’s gunman and Parameshwara confirmed that they were using the said phone numbers during the coalition government. The report suggested that the snooping could have helped bring down the coalition government.
The Wire said two phone numbers belonging to Satish, Kumaraswamy’s personal secretary, were chosen for potential targeting in mid-2019 when the coalition government was struggling to win back the rebels who eventually joined BJP and went on to become ministers in the BS Yediyurappa-led BJP government.
The phone number of Siddaramaiah’s personal secretary Venkatesh, who has been working with him for 27 years, was also added in the same period, the report said. A phone number of a policeman, Manjunath Muddegowda, a security staffer of JD(S) patriarch Gowda, also appears in the leaked records.
Congress leaders seek judicial probe
“The timing surrounding their selections as possible candidates for surveillance is crucial as, during the political power game that played out, the Congress and the JD(S) alleged that the BJP, actively backed by the Union government, was attempting to topple their coalition government by poaching their party legislators,” said the report.
Congress leader Siddaramaiah said that the party will hold a nationwide ‘Raj Bhavan Chalo’ campaign, demanding a judicial inquiry into the scandal. The phone numbers are part of a leaked database first accessed by a French media non-profit -Forbidden Stories that was later shared with an international media consortium as part of what is called the ‘Pegasus Project’. Pegasus is military-grade cyber tool spyware that is sold by an Israeli cyber tech firm-NSO- to vetted governments and its agencies.
DEPUTY CM REJECTS ALL ALLEGATIONS, TRASHES SPYWARE REPORTS
Karnataka’s Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for IT Dr CN Ashwath Narayan categorically rejected all allegations made under the ‘Pegasus Project’ so far. He reiterated his party’s stand in Parliament that the allegations were made with mala fide intent to defame India and the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
“Congress’ allegations that the BJP government has been snooping on various individuals are baseless and unsubstantiated. Even the Congress has provided no proof of such snooping or phone tapping. Such tapping is Congress’ practice, not BJP’s. During 2013 UPA government, at least 3,000 phones and 500 mail IDs were under scrutiny every month. This is an attempt by Amnesty International to defame our party and our government,” he insisted. There is an attempt by ‘anti-nationals’ and ‘foreign agents’ to defame the BJP government, he added.