Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, on Tuesday, attacked the Congress, including its national and state leaders, on the ongoing row over use of Israel-made spying software Pegasus, saying the Congress was a party historically involved in spying on its own and other political leaders.
In a press conference, Chouhan asked why should the BJP spy on Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi who were ‘politically zero’? “Why should we spy upon a leader who makes gold out of potatoes?” he said in an obvious dig at Rahul Gandhi.
The CM strongly denied any involvement of the Indian government in the alleged use of spying software and condemned the allegation, which he said was part of an international conspiracy and some foreign elements and their Congress friends were not being able to digest the progress of India under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chouhan added that NSO, the Israeli firm that sells the spyware, has denied Indian government’s involvement and has talked of taking the matter to the court.
The CM pointed out that the timing of the spying row was also chosen carefully to disrupt the monsoon session of the Parliament. He called the entire row as being based on a pile of lies.
The Pegasus row erupted ahead of the monsoon session after a consortium of international media groups came out with a list of political leaders, members of judiciary and media and even private persons associated with them who were spied on using the Pegasus software. Rahul Gandhi’s name features among those who were allegedly spied upon.
Former chief minister Kamal Nath retorted, saying Chouhan was forced to support lies (by the Central government on spying allegations) and defend Modi because his (chief ministerial) chair was under threat. “Today you are defending Modi, but be careful because the next number is yours,” Kamal Nath tweeted alluding to speculations on removal of Chouhan from CM post.
Spying allegations against Congress
Chouhan, meanwhile, made detailed allegations of spying against the Congress and its top leaders saying 9,000 phones were tapped during the tenure of UPA government. He said leaders from Teen Murti Bhavan to 1, Safdarjung Road to 10, Janpath (residences of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi respectively) had always been mired in allegations of spying.
Leaders like K. Kamraj and Lal Bahadur Shastri were spied upon by Indira Gandhi while those like P.V. Narsimha Rao and Sitaram Kesari were spied upon by Sonia Gandhi. “Congress leaders have always resorted to such tactics to weaken their own party and that of others. Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi have this spying gene and are involved in damaging the G-23 leaders. In Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh managed to damage Kamal Nath in a similar manner,” Chouhan alleged.
He also made references to allegations of spying against Congress governments made by leaders like Amar Singh (of Samajwadi Party then), communist leader Sitaram Yechuri, former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha and former president of India Pranab Mukherjee while he was the finance minister in UPA government.
He asked why Rahul Gandhi visited Chinese embassy in a secretive manner late in the night and alleged that former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar visited Pakistan to seek support to destabilise Indian government.
Responding to Chouhan’s allegations, Kamal Nath tweeted to say that on one hand Shivraj was saying that there was no evidence against Indian government in the Pegasus spying and that Congress had brought the matter to light and on the other hand he (Chouhan) was spreading lies. He said that Chouhan should know that the Pegasus expose was by the international media.
He said the political strength of the Congress is evident from the spying expose. In reference to the ‘potato to gold’ jibe, Kamal Nath said everyone in the country knows how the BJP IT cell edited videos to spread lies and it was shameful that Chouhan was peddling the same lies again. “I was hopeful that you will stand with the truth, strongly oppose the spying and support a Union minister from state (Prahlad Patel) who was spied upon, but you decided to stand by lies,” Kamal Nath tweeted.