India’s main opposition party the Congress claimed on Sunday that its general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s phone had been tapped, in the midst of a raging row triggered by popular messaging platform WhatsApp’s admission that journalists and human rights activists in India who are its users had been targets of surveillance by operators using Israeli spyware Pegasus.
“WhatsApp supposedly sent messages to different people whose phones were hacked. One such message was also received from WhatsApp on the telephone of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra,” Congress Communications department head Randeep Surjewala said.
He said Priyanka received the message during the same duration as the others. “When WhatsApp was sending messages to others, she received a similar message. WhatsApp did not say that the phone was hacked in this fashion by illegal Pegasus software. The nature of the message is already available in public domain and she received a similar message,” he said.
The WhatsApp did not confirm or deny the Congress claims. “WhatsApp cares deeply about the privacy and security of our users. We have already contacted the users directly we have reason to believe were targeted. Users can contact us within the app and we will respond directly,” a spokesperson of the messaging carrier said.
The BJP hit back by questioning the Congress’ claim. “Haven’t we seen the 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,” BJP IT cell head Amit Malviya said. The Congress claim came a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee alleged her phone too was tapped and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate the matter.
There were reports earlier that another senior opposition leader Praful Patel of Nationalist Congress Party, an ally of the Congress, also had received a message from WhatsApp informing him about the privacy breach.