Congress government in Karnataka fell due to Pegasus, says party
The phone numbers of those linked to the former Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government in Karnataka were reportedly surveilled at the time when the coalition government crumbled in 2019. The JD(S)-Congress government fell in July 2019 and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gained power. Reports on the Israeli spyware "Pegasus" have made shocking revelations on surveillance of politicians, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, etc.
What happened in Karnataka in 2019?
The JD(S)-Congress government fell after 17 MLAs resigned. Most of them joined the rival BJP and BS Yediyurappa, the current CM, came to power. Many of the rebel Karnataka MLAs eventually became ministers in the BJP government. At the time, the JD(S) and the Congress had accused the saffron party of engineering defections with active help from the BJP-ruled Centre.
Key phone numbers in Karnataka were targeted: Report
According to The Wire, the 2019 Karnataka political crisis was linked to the alleged surveillance through Pegasus. Notably, there is no evidence to establish whether the phones were hacked. However, key numbers from the former state government were allegedly selected. These included the contacts of Deputy CM G Parameshwara, personal secretaries of CM HD Kumaraswamy, and former CM Siddaramaiah.
Israeli firm's Indian client was interested in phone numbers: Report
Reportedly, the list of numbers was "of interest" to an Indian client of the NSO Group, the Israeli firm that makes and sells Pegasus. The company's clients exclusively include governments. The phone number of Siddaramaiah's personal secretary Venkatesh was reportedly also on the list.
'They cannot spy without Indian government's permission'
Parameshwara reacted saying, "I was surprised to know that Pegasus has compromised my phone when I was Deputy Chief Minister." "Without the permission of the government of India, either the Ministry of Home or the PM's office, they cannot do it. I am sure the government is involved. I condemn this...They have misused their power to topple governments in this country," he said.
Every party in power misused information: Kumaraswamy
Kumaraswamy said that "every party" in power misused information. He said friends in the BJP had said at the time that the party misused its good office to get information by tapping their competition's phones. Notably, Kumaraswamy has himself faced allegations of phone tapping.
What is the Pegasus spyware row?
The list of phone numbers is part of a leaked database accessed by French media non-profit Forbidden Stories. The database has been shared with an international media consortium called the Pegasus Project. The Wire reported that the period coincides with the time that former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had changed his phone number. Gandhi was among the several figures targeted in the alleged snoop.