Congress Alleged BJP Of Snooping On Priyanka Vadra; BJP Calls It Figment Of Imagination


New Delhi: The Congress on Sunday said the party’s general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, was also informed by messaging services company WhatsApp that her phone data was suspected to have been breached, at a time when the firm has admitted there was targeted surveillance of several Indians by an Israeli spyware.

The Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged on Sunday that this indicated the Union government was involved in a “surveillance racket”. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hit back, saying the Congress was “imagining things” that do not exist, while WhatsApp said users can contact the company to find out if their accounts were compromised.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also informed by WhatsApp about a possible breach of her phone, Surjewala told reporters at a press conference in response to a question on whether hackers had targeted anyone from the Congress.

Several rights activists, lawyers, and journalists on Thursday said that they had been identified as targets of a phone hack aimed at snooping on them a day after WhatsApp went public with allegations against an Israeli firm for having misused its platform to aid spying on around 1,400 people across the world.

It was reported that the people targeted in India included former Union minister Praful Patel and ex-Lok Sabha member Santosh Bhartiya, and on Sunday that at least 121 people in the country were targets. However, it was not clear how many of these attempts were successful. Of these, 21 were journalists, lawyers, and activists.

Surjewala called the breach a serious issue. “Two political leaders have so far stated that their phones were being tapped and hacked. As far as I know, when WhatsApp was supposedly sending messages to different people that their phones were hacked, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also got one such message on her phone,” he said.

Surjewala added that WhatsApp did not say that the phone was hacked using illegal Pegasus software. “The nature of the message is already available in the public domain and she also received one such message. I can say only this much,” he said. He alleged that the government is the “deployer and executor” of this “illegal and unconstitutional snooping and spying racket”.

A Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Priyanka Gandhi got a message from WhatsApp, and not from the Toronto-based research group Citizen Lab as was the case with some other breaches. The Citizen Lab and WhatsApp informed activists such as Anand Teletumbde and Bela Bhatia about the hacking.

BJP’s information technology cell incharge Amit Malviya dismissed Surjewala’s statement. “Haven’t we seen Congress imagining things that don’t exist? remember them claiming that Rahul Gandhi’s life was in danger when a green light, off a video camera, flashed on his face during a media briefing. Well, that is the level of their leaders’ credibility in public life,” he tweeted.

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