West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) Supremo Mamata Banerjee slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government on the Pegasus snoop gate row.
"Instead of giving money to the poor, your are spending money on spy-giri," said the Chief Minister, at the TMC's annual Shahid Dibas (Martyrs' Day) event. The event, held virtually this year, was attended by prominent Opposition leaders and was broadcasted outside Bengal for the first time.
Banerjee's nephew and TMC MP, Abhishek Banerjee, was identified as a "potential target" of the Israeli spyware software, Pegasus, used to remotely hack phones without leaving a trace.
An investigative report by a global consortium of journalists showed that the software may have been used to hack into the phones of scores of politicians, journalists, and activists in India, and the world over.
Political strategist Prashant Kishor, who managed the TMC's election campaign during the just concluded Assembly elections, was also allegedly targeted by the software. Investigation by the consortium showed that Kishor's phone showed traces of spyware during the Bengal elections, and even as recently as 14 July.
'Plastered My Phone': Mamata
"I have plastered my phone camera," said Banerjee, addressing the event.
"It's time to plaster the BJP also," she added, holding up her phone to show that the camera had been covered with scotch tape.
"I cannot speak to anyone without being snooped on. I can't speak to Sharad Pawar or the Delhi CM or the Andhra CM," continued Mamata.
""Of course I have also been snooped on. If Abhishek is hacked then everything I say to Abhishek is known. If PK (Prashant Kishor) is hacked then everything I say to him is known. That means my conversations have also been hacked."" - `Mamata Banerjee
"Even Modiji's own minister is on the list. All leaders, police, judges, bureaucrats have been infected by Pegasus. Pegasus is dangerous, ferocious," she added.
She also asked the judiciary to take suo motu cognisance of the matter.
"Save the country, the democracy. Can't you take suo motu cognisance as all phones are tapped? Set up a panel to probe. Only judiciary can save country," she said.
Call For Opposition Meet in Delhi
The event also saw Mamata strongly calling for a united Opposition front against the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
For the first time, the event was broadcasted in the states of Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Assam, and Tripura.
Prominent Opposition leaders were invited to watch the programme at Delhi's Constitution Club along with TMC MPs.
Of the leaders present were NCP Chief Sharad Pawar, Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Digvijay Singh, AAP's Sanjay Singh, Shiv Sena's Priyanka Chaturvedi, as well as representatives from the SP, DMK and TRS. Actor-turned-politician from the Samajwadi Party, Jaya Bachchan attended the event too.
"I don't know what will happen in 2024, but we need to start planning from now," said Mamata. "Now is the time to plan against eradicating the disease. If you don't start planning now, you will lose time," she added.
Banerjee further said that she would be meeting important leaders from various Opposition parties on her trip to Delhi next week.
"The Parliament season is a good time to meet everybody," she said.
"I would request Sharad Pawar ji to organise a meeting of Opposition leaders during my time there," she added.
She further hinted at TMC's national expansion plans saying, 'Khela Hobe', the party's slogan in 2021 Bengal elections, will be sounded in all states.
She also declared 16 August as 'Khela Hobe Diwas'.
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