As the Pegasus scandal rocks Parliament, a phone-tapping controversy has erupted in Bengal, where police today filed a case against BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari over claims he has information of phone calls to the police from the office of MP Abhishek Banerjee, who is also the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
“I have phone numbers and records of all calls you (the police) get from the nephew’s office,” he declared at a rally in East Medinipur, warning Mr Banerjee “no one will be able to save you”.
The allegation was part of a continuing attack on the Trinamool over violence in the state following the April-May election that the BJP lost. For over two months now, it has alleged the state has gone soft on curbing such incidents, especially those targeting its supporters and leaders.
At his meeting Mr Adhikari declared that the role of police officials in responding to these cases may soon be probed by the CBI. He signed off on that comment with an ominous warning: “If you have the state government in your hands, we have the central government in our hands.”
“The CBI may soon investigate the role of the IOs, ICs and OCs. Then you will understand what is what… no aunt will be able to save you (a reference to Mr Banerjee),” he said.
Mr Banerjee is among some opposition leaders, including Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, and journalists whose phone numbers are on a list of allegedly targeted for surveillance using spyware Pegasus.
The Bengal government has said reports of violence have been greatly exaggerated and that most incidents took place when the state police was under the control of the Election Commission.
Charges have been filed under the Official Secrets Act and the National Disaster Management Act.
The OSA was applied for “wrongful possession of secret official code, passwords, documents, etc.” and the NDMA for holding a political meeting in violation of a ban on such gatherings (due to the pandemic) and obstructing police officers in the discharge of their duties.
“It is clear from his comments that phones are being tapped in Bengal by the centre,” Trinamool spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said, as he demanded Mr Adhikari’s arrest.
Suvendu Adhikari, meanwhile, has dismissed the case.
To charges under the NDMA, he only pointed to the ruling party, saying: “I can show you dozens of photos of Trinamool supporters protesting in large numbers against fuel price (hike)”.