Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, political strategist Prashant Kishor and Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel could have been potential targets for surveillance by an official Indian client of the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group. These names were revealed by media organisations part of the Pegasus Project.
Gandhi was selected as a potential target in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, according to the news reports.
Two numbers belonging to Gandhi feature in the database of leaked numbers believed to be drawn up by NSO Group clients and accessed by Forbidden Stories, a
French non-profit organisation.
The Wire reported that nine numbers belonging to Gandhi and five of his friends were found in the leaked database and is one of the larger clusters around a person of interest.
The Wire reported that it is not possible to "conclusively establish" whether Pegasus was successfully deployed against Gandhi as he no longer possesses the devices he used during the time period.
Prashant Kishor, who was a key political strategist in West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's re-election campaign in 2021, was also a target of Pegasus since 2018 and was detected as recently as July 13.
Mamata Banerjee's nephew and Trinamool Congress Lok Sabha MP Abhishek Banerjee and his personal secretary were also potential targets for surveillance.
BJP Ministers Targetted
Newly-minted Minister of Communications, Electronics and Information Technology, and Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw was a potential target in 2017 when he had not joined the BJP. A number listed in Vaishnaw's wife's name was also a potential target.
Prior to the new disclosure, Vaishnaw told the Lok Sabha on Monday that the findings of the Pegasus Project were an "attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions".
Numbers belonging to Union Minister of State for Jal Shakti Prahlad Singh Patel, his wife and at least 15 of his close associates were listed as potential targets in 2019. Those listed as potential targets also included Patel's private secretaries, political and office associates as well as his cook and gardener.
Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi's Accuser Listed As Potential Target
The Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment in 2019 was also selected as a potential target of Pegasus.
In the same week when her allegations were first reported in 2019, three numbers belonging to the female staffer as well as eight numbers belonging to her husband and two of his brothers were potential candidates for surveillance.
It is not known if the phones belonging to the staffer and her family were actually compromised as they declined to get their phones forensically analysed.
Ashok Lavasa, Gagandeep Kang And India head Of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Targetted
Former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa was also a potential surveillance target weeks after he ruled that PM Modi and then BJP president Amit Shah violated the Model Code of Conduct in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Lavasa was the only member of the three-person Election Commission to rule against Modi and Shah.
Virologist Gagangdeep Kang was a potential target in 2018 when she played a key role in tackling the Nipah virus outbreak.
The India head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Hari Menon, was selected as a potential target in 2019.
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