Mamata terms Pegasus snoopgate worse than Watergate
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday claimed that the snooping on Supreme Court judges, journalists and political leaders among others using the Pegasus spyware, news of which broke earlier this week, was "worse than the Watergate scandal" which broke in the US during the Nixon presidency.
BJP was quick to counter the attack of the Trinamool Congress alleging that Mamata Banerjee government has been using the same Israeli snooping software to put her political opponents, journalists, government officials and even her own party leaders and ministers under surveillance.
Banerjee likened the scandal which allegedly involved using spyware developed by an Israeli firm to infect the mobile phones of hundreds of Indians in a bid to spy on them to the imposition of a "super-emergency in the country". The chief minister claimed that all impartial institutions have been politicised by the BJP-led Government.
"Pegasus is worse than Watergate scandal; it is super emergency," Banerjee told a press conference at the state secretariat here.
"They (BJP leadership) don't trust even their own officers and ministers," she said, adding "I have heard they tapped the phones of several RSS people."
The BJP's state president Dillip Ghosh claimed that his party, which has been under attack by various political parties at the national level, does not believe in the culture of phone tapping.
The TMC denied the charge saying that only the authorities of a country can use the services of the company that sells Pegasus.
"Mamata Banerjee has put her opponents, journalists, officials, her own party leaders and ministers under surveillance using Pegasus," Ghosh told reporters.
Claiming that TMC leaders keep contact among themselves through WhatsApp, where the conversation is encrypted, Ghosh said, "They (TMC) don't make normal phone calls or share SMSs as they know that everything is being tapped."
The BJP doesn't believe in the culture of phone tapping and it is the culture of the Congress, where Mamata Banerjee began her political innings, he said.
Reacting to Ghosh's jibe, senior TMC leader and minister Sobhandeb Chatterjee said everyone knows that only a country can use the services of the Israeli company "even if clandestinely"
"Dilip-babu is known for wild claims. His comments on phone tapping has no basis," he told PTI.
"But he should remember that peddling such lies will only harm the spirit of truth and principle in politics. It violates the religion of politics," Chatterjee added.
A global media consortium has recently reported that over 300 verified mobile phone numbers, including of two central ministers, over 40 journalists, three opposition leaders besides scores of business persons and activists in India, could have been targeted for hacking using the Israeli spyware Pegasus, which is usually supplied to government agencies.
The Indian government and Israeli surveillance company NSO Group, which sells Pegasus spyware worldwide, have separately refuted the reports.