Pegasus: Opposition in Uttar Pradesh Lashes Out at Adityanath for Defending Union Govt

Lucknow: The opposition in Uttar Pradesh has lashed out at Yogi Adityanath and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for failing to properly address allegations arising out of the Pegasus spyware-related revelations. Adityanath was one of several BJP chief ministers who had defended the Union government and blamed the opposition for “creating a negative atmosphere”.

As part of the Pegasus Project, The Wire and 16 global partners revealed how government clients of the Israeli NSO Group have been using Pegasus spyware to surveil opposition leaders, journalists, rights activists, businesspersons and others. In India, several opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi were on the leaked potential targets’ list. It has been confirmed that poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s phone was compromised using the spyware.

Samajwadi Party president and former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav targeted the Narendra Modi-led Union government over the Pegasus snooping controversy. Listening to people’s personal conversations is a gross violation of the right to privacy, he said.

Yadav tweeted that if the BJP is behind this surveillance, then this is punishable. On the other hand, if the government is saying it does not have any information about the snooping, then it is the government’s failure on national security. “Spying on phones is a crime in democracy,” the SP president added.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) also raised the issue and demanded an impartial enquiry into it. Former chief minister and party supremo Mayawati said that the Pegasus revelations are a “very serious matter”.

Mayawati said that the dirty games of snooping and blackmailing are not a new thing, but breaching privacy with the help of expensive equipment, minutely spying on ministers, opposition leaders, officers and journalists, etc. is a very serious matter.

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The BSP supremo also said that the clarifications, refutations and arguments of the Union government are not going down well with the people. It would be good for the government and the country if an independent and impartial inquiry is carried out soon so that responsibility can be fixed, she continued.

Adityanath claimed that the opposition has become a part of an “international conspiracy” to defame the country. He also said that by raising the issue of the Pegasus snooping, the opposition stalled Parliament proceedings of the monsoon session and did not allow issues of the common people to be discussed in the house. However, he did not at any point categorically deny that the Union government had paid for Pegasus spyware.

“The opposition parties including the Congress are involved in dirty and controversial politics even when the country is in the midst of a pandemic,” he said.

Also read: TMC Sharpens Attack on Modi Govt After Mamata’s Nephew Appears as Potential Snoop Target

UP Congress president Ajay Kumar Lallu came down heavily on Adityanath. In a statement, Lallu said snooping is an old habit of BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah. They used the same conspiracies in Gujarat before 2014 to muzzle the independent voices of the opposition leaders and journalists, he said.

The Aam Aadmi Party also denounced Adityanath’s statement and alleged that the ruling party is a traitor which probably earned a commission in the Rafael defence deal. Party lawmaker and UP state in charge Sanjay Singh said, “The BJP government potentially snooped on the woman who accused justice Ranjan Gogoi and her family as well. The information which was accessed by the government was used by it for a favourable verdict in the Rafael deal case.”

The AAP leader went on to say that all judgements given by Justice Gogoi in favour of the government should be reviewed. On being asked about how Adityanath has alleged that the opposition is stalling Parliament proceedings, Singh replied that this is an important not just for the country but for the whole world. Adityanath’s statement is baseless as the right to privacy, not only of those who are critics of the government but also of its own people, has been breached.

He alleged that before independence, right-wingers were providing information on freedom fighters to the British. Now, they are snooping on opposition leaders, journalists, people associated with the law world and even their own ministers. “This is a black blot on the history of the BJP,” Lallu added.

Watch: How Surveillance May Have Played a Role in Toppling of Karnataka Govt in 2019

Hitting out at Adityanath, former cabinet minister Abhishiek Mishra said that since the Israeli company NSO Group confirmed this that it sells its spyware only to “vetted governments”, now there is no doubt that the government purchased it with public money and used it for illegal snooping. SP leader Mishra also asked that if the government has not done anything wrong, why was it running away from an investigation?

Polite Bureau member of the Communist of India (Marxist) Subashini Ali slammed Adityanath for his allegation that the opposition is defaming the country. Former MP Ali told The Wire that it’s not the opposition but the BJP and its government which have defamed the world’s largest democracy by snooping on its own people.

“The Government must come clear on the question of whether the government or any of its agencies purchased the spyware or not,” she added.

Ali ridiculed the chief minister’s allegation that opposition is defaming the nation and said that this is not a matter only of India, the snooping nexus was busted in 15 other countries. She further added that it was shameful that the ruling party potentially used spyware to topple the democratically elected government of Karnataka.

Read The Wire’s coverage as part of the Pegasus Project here.