Pegasus Scandal: Modi ‘hit the soul of India’s democracy’
The Prime Minister "inserted a weapon in our phones", used it to "hit the soul of India's democracy" and now the government is trying to silence opposition demands for a discussion in Parliament, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said yesterday.
Gandhi was addressing reporters after a meeting of 14 opposition parties - a meeting to chalk out a strategy to take on the government over the Pegasus phone-hacking scandal, which has triggered protests in, and forced repeated adjournments of the monsoon session of Parliament, reports NDTV.
"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," Gandhi said.
"I want to ask the people - there is a weapon Narendra Modi has planted in your phones... used against opposition leaders, journalists, activists... should there not be a discussion in Parliament?"
"... if we (the opposition) agree there will be no discussion on Pegasus... the issue will get buried... till the time Pegasus is not discussed in Parliament, we are going nowhere," he stressed.
To accusations the Congress is "not letting parliament run", Gandhi - whose name is on the list of alleged surveillance targets - said: "They say we are disturbing parliament (but) we want to fulfill our responsibilities and this is against the democratic process."
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut, who was part of yesterday's meeting, stressed the opposition is "united in our stand to protect issues of national security, democracy and farmers' welfare".
"Like Rahulji explained, the government has used this weapon as an arrow again democracy and we will not stand for it. This must be discussed in Parliament," he said, pointing out that statements - such as that read out by IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw - did not constitute a discussion.
Apart from the Congress and the Shiv Sena, the CPI and CPM, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the AAP, the DMK, the NCP, the National Conference and the Samajwadi Party took part in yesterday's meeting.
A number of smaller political outfits - the Muslim League, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, Kerala Congress, and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi - also took part.
The Trinamool Congress - which has announced a first (and so far only) judicial inquiry into the Pegasus allegations - was not present, although MP Derek O'Brien later said the opposition is "100 percent united", and that the Congress had been told of his party's absence yesterday.
Mamata Banerjee, whose nephew and Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee is also among the potential targets, met the Prime Minister in Delhi on Tuesday and pitched for a Supreme Court-led inquiry.
Mamata skipped yesterday's meeting of the opposition about the Pegasus scandal, but at a press conference later, made it clear that she was 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, Mamata said the talks will begin properly "after the parliament session", reports our New Delhi correspondent.
"I spoke to Lalu Prasad Yadav yesterday [Tuesday]. We will be talking to all parties," she said, 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 West 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.
Meanwhile, the private equity firm that owns NSO, the Israeli spyware company at the heart of the Pegasus scandal, is being liquidated, a source close to the company told AFP yesterday, confirming media reports.
London-based Novalpina Capital, which bought the NSO Group in 2019, is being dissolved after a dispute between its co-founders.
Its liquidation leaves the future ownership of NSO unclear, just as the company is grappling with the fallout of a vast electronic espionage scandal.
Novalpina also owns the Estonian casino group Olympic Entertainment and French pharmaceutical company X.O.
The Financial Times reported that Novalpina's investors "have until August 6 to decide whether to liquidate the fund with a fire sale of its assets, or appoint a third party to take control of it".
French business daily Les Echos reported that Novalpina was being liquidated to put an end to an "internal war" between its founders.
But "the espionage scandal may have been the straw that broke the camel's back", it added.