The alleged snooping using Israeli spyware Pegasus has created a political storm in West Bengal after investigations carried out by a global consortium of media houses revealed that the phones of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and heir apparent, Abhishek Banerjee, her political advisor Prashant Kishor and Abhishek’s personal secretary Sumit Roy were identified as snooping targets.
On Monday night, Abhishek Banerjee wrote in a Twitter message, “Two Minutes of SILENCE for the SORE LOSERS! Despite ALLIES like ED, CBI, NIA, IT, ECI, @BJP4India's money + might and #PegasusSpying Mr @AmitShah couldn't save his face in #BengalElections2021. Please COME Prepared with Better RESOURCES in 2024!”
The state’s ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s youth wing has called for a state-wide protest against this alleged snooping on Tuesday.
The party’s Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy also took digs at the centre while speaking to the media called the alleged snooping as “shameful” and reflective of the authoritarian attitude of the Union government.
“The Union government is using spyware to snoop on the phones of politicians, journalists, activists, even youth leaders like Abhishek Banerjee and our poll strategist Prashant Kishor,” Roy said.
In effect, the reports have brought to prominent the TMC’s new all-India general secretary, who has been entrusted with the task of expanding the party’s footprints beyond West Bengal and coordinate with other regional parties to forge an alliance of opposition parties against the Narendra Modi-led BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha election and the 2021 assembly elections, Modi and Amit Shah, along with all other senior BJP leaders, targeted Abhishek relentlessly, sometimes accusing him of involvement in corruption rackets and sometimes as a petty beneficiary of ‘dynasty politics’. He was repeatedly referred to only as ‘nephew’ to stress on the fact that being Mamata Banerjee’s nephew was his only qualification for grabbing the influential party positions that he held.
“The party will surely put before the public the question if he was nothing more than a beneficiary of dynasty politics and had no quality of himself at all. Then why were Modi and Shah so worried to snoop on him?” asked a senior TMC leader who did not want to be identified.
“Not only Abhishek but even his personal secretary’s phone was snooped on. This makes it amply evident how much they were concerned with his moves,” said another TMC leader, who too said that the party will highlight these facts in the coming days.
BJP leaders in West Bengal did not want to comment on the issue, arguing that the Union government was responding to all allegations.
However, a senior leader of Bengal BJP said, requesting anonymity, “We seem to have lost one of our prime targets. Abhishek will gain in sympathy due to this and now when and if Central agencies such as the CBI or the ED try to question him in relation to some scam, the TMC will get a good chance of calling it political vendetta.”
It is noteworthy that despite the BJP’s relentless allegations against Abhishek, no charges against him have been proved. Ahead of the 2021 assembly elections, BJP leaders created a great deal of hype around the investigation into a coal scam in which Abhishek was allegedly involved but the investigation seemed to have taken a break since the assembly elections.