Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped today’s mega meeting of the opposition about the Pegasus scandal, but at a press conference later, made it clear that she is at the forefront of the battle ahead, for which the parties should unite. Asked who will lead the opposition, she shot back, “I am not a political astrologer. It depends on situation. I have no problem if someone else leads”.
Asked if she could be the face of the united opposition, she said, “I am a simple worker, I want to continue as a worker”.
Indicating the need for long-term plans, Ms Banerjee said the talks will begin properly “after the parliament session”.
“I spoke to Lalu Prasad Yadav yesterday. We will be talking to all parties,” said Ms Banerjee, adding that she will meet Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during her current visit to Delhi.
“There should be a common platform to work together. “All political parties in the opposition must work together. We will all sit together and work something out,” said the Bengal Chief Minister, whose landslide victory in the recent state election in face of the BJP’s formidable election machinery has added to her weight in the opposition.
Ms Banerjee and her party have been furious about the Pegasus issue as a consortium of news organisations investigating the issue claimed the phone number of Ms Banerjee’s nephew, Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, was part of the alleged list of potential surveillance targets.
Ms Banerjee today said her phone is already tapped and she has been unable to speak to anyone. “If Abhishek’s (Mukherjee) phone is tapped, and I am talking to him, then, automatically my phone is tapped too. Pegasus has put everyone’s life in danger,” she said today.
The opposition has demanded an explanation from the government on the Pegasus issue, in view of vendor NSO’s claim that its clients are only “vetted” governments.
The government has so far said it has not conducted any illegal surveillance – a statement the opposition views as extremely unclear.
Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, whose number was also on the alleged list, said at today’s opposition meeting, “The entire opposition is here… our voice is being curtailed in Parliament. We are only asking if the Pegasus software was bought and if it was used against certain persons in India”.
The NSO group, which owns Pegasus, admits this is spyware and is used to hack phones, but says it does business only with governments and government agencies. The Israeli company says it does not corroborate the list of potential targets reported by media companies around the world.
The Indian government has said there is “no substance” to the reports of Pegasus being used by it against opposition leaders, journalists and others. NDTV cannot independently verify the authenticity of the list of those who were supposedly targeted.