HD Kumaraswamy collaborators Siddaramaiah and HD Devegowda may also have been targeted by Pegasus, the investigation revealed.
The numbers of former Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and former Deputy CM G Parameshwara were selected for possible surveillance by Israeli spyware Pegasus ahead of the overthrow of the JD (S) -Congress government in Karnataka in 2019, The Wire reported on Tuesday. .
According to The Wire, two phone numbers belonging to Satish, the personal secretary to then-chief minister HD Kumaraswamy, and a phone number belonging to Venkatesh, the personal secretary to former chief minister Siddaramaiah, were also selected for potential targeting by Pegasus in 2019. The Wire has been informed by relatives of Siddaramaiah that he does not have a personal phone, and therefore the fact that Siddaramaiah’s aid may have been targeted is significant. This was the time when Karnataka witnessed a political crisis with Congress and JD (S) MPs switching sides, many of these MPs were forced to stay in a Mumbai hotel in July 2019 by the BJP.
“If what you claim is true, it is false and I strongly condemn such action,” Siddaramaiah’s assistant told The Wire, confirming that he was using the phone number mentioned in the database.
“Even the income tax department is wiretapping the phones of important people. So I am not very worried about all of this. This is nothing new, ”HD Kumaraswamy told the media, reacting to his AP number on the list. “I did not do any bad activity or compromise the security of the state or the country. We don’t have to take this seriously. Several governments have abused their office, not just the BJP but even Congress already. This has been done for at least 15 to 20 years now, ”Kumaraswamy added.
On top of that, a member of the police who allegedly worked in a security service of former Prime Minister and JD (S) HD chief Devegowda also appears in the leaked database of numbers selected for surveillance by Pegasus. The Wire also reports that the number of G Parameshwara, then deputy chief minister of Karnataka, was also targeted in mid-2019.
Also Read: Government Should Respond If There Was Authorized Interception Via Pegasus, Tharoor Tells TNM
Reacting to the news, Parameshwara told The Wire that he was using that particular phone number in 2019, but stopped using it for several months after that. He said he had no idea why he was being targeted, as he was “not involved in any political management” or even as head of the Karnataka Congress at the time.
The Karnataka political crisis in 2019
By 2018, the BJP had become the largest party after the assembly elections, but did not reach halfway. Yediyurappa even took an oath, only to be forced to resign two days later. Then the JD (S) and Congress made an unlikely alliance and came to power and formed the government under HD Kumaraswamy. Siddaramaiah was the head of the coordinating committee that would oversee the functioning of the government. The coalition government got off to a rocky start and efforts were made from day one to poach the alliance lawmakers.
Read also: Rahul Gandhi, Ashwini Vaishnaw, MoS Prahlad Patel: Indian politicians on the Pegasus list
In July 2019, the BJP was successful. Seventeen congressional and JD (S) leaders resigned their MPs and were airlifted to a luxury hotel in Mumbai. They stayed there until the vote of confidence, and the Congress-JD (S) government was overthrown. In a vote of confidence that dragged on for several days, the coalition government failed to prove a majority and Yediyurappa returned as chief minister.
The Pegasus Project and the Union Government’s Response
The new revelation is part of an investigation published by 16 international media outlets – one of them being The Wire, which showed that more than 300 verified phone numbers in India – including those of two sitting ministers, more than 40 journalists, three opposition leaders and a judge’s seat, in addition to dozens of businessmen and activists in India, could have been the target of hacking via Pegasus. From the list of more than 50,000 mobile phone numbers obtained by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with the 16 news organizations, journalists were able to identify more than 1,000 people in 50 countries who were allegedly selected by customers. of the ONS for potential monitoring.
Pegasus, which also made the news in India in 2019, is only sold to government agencies by the Israeli group NSO.
The Union government in India, without denying or confirming whether it used the services of the NSO Group, dismissed the surveillance reports, calling the investigation “an attempt to slander Indian democracy”.
Also Read: What is Pegasus, How to Protect Against It, and Other FAQs Answers