November 1, 2023
NEW DELHI – Rahul Gandhi and other Opposition leaders on Tuesday accused the Centre of tapping their phones even as Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw and top leaders of the BJP dismissed the allegation as an attempt to distract public attention from the progress the country is making under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc who made the allegation, included Congress’ Shashi Tharoor and Pawan Khera, AAP’s Raghav Chadha, and TMC’ s Mahua Moitra. They claimed that they have received notifications on their Apple IDs reading “state-sponsored attackers may be targeting your iPhone”.
Gandhi, who represents the Wayanad parliamentary constituency of Kerala, claimed that his office team and several Opposition leaders have received the ‘hacking’ alert on their devices and claimed it was done to distract the attention of the people of the country from the Adani issue which he has been raising time and again.
Notably, he had earlier accused the Adani Group of the billionaire businessman Gautam Adani of “swindling” Rs 12,000 crore in public money by over-invoicing in coal imports.
Addressing a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters here on Tuesday, Rahul said, “The entire Opposition has got a notice from Apple which read ‘Apple believes you are being targeted by state-sponsored attackers who are trying to remotely compromise the iPhone associated with your Apple ID.”
He further said, “In my office, everyone including Venugopal ji has got it (the alert). In the Congress party, there is a list of those who received the alert that includes Pawan Khera and Supriya Shrinarte. CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi, Mahua Moitra and Raghav Chadha also got it.”
Flashing a copy of the mail from Apple, Gandhi said, “Distraction politics is being played out so as to shield Adani from the Opposition’s prying eyes. Do as much tapping as you want, we won’t be scared. If you want my phone, I will give it to you, but we are not going to give up our fight.”
In reply to a question, the Congress MP said, “The Pegasus inquiry, in which my name was also cropped up, disappeared. That gives you an insight into the situation the country is in today. Our job as an Opposition is to keep people informed about what is going on. I am happy that more and more people are becoming aware of this goings-on.”
“It’s clearly a sign of panic (of the party in power). This is the work of thieves and criminals… Only thieves and criminals indulge in such sinister activities…,” he added.
Echoing similar views, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge accused the government of destroying democracy to protect Adani.
Taking a swipe at the BJP, Kharge said, “The spy party first used Pegasus to snoop on Opposition leaders and institutions, now snooping is on through some other mechanism. INDIA means India. It will not be intimidated by such intimidatory tactics.”
Earlier, Mahua Moitra, wrote in a post on X, “Received text and email from Apple warning me that the government is trying to hack into my phone and email. @HMOIndia – get a life. Adani & PMO bullies – your fear makes me pity you.”
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw, while vehemently rejecting the allegations, accused the Opposition of trying to distract the people from the ”progress” the country was making under the Prime Minister.
In a series of posts on X, the minister said, “We are concerned over the statements we have seen in the media from some MPs as well as others about a notification received by them from Apple. The notification received by them as per media reports mentions ‘state-sponsored attacks’ on their devices.”
However, he said much of the information by Apple on this issue seems vague and non-specific in nature. “Apple states these notifications may be based on information which is ‘incomplete or imperfect’. It also states that some Apple threat notifications may be false alarms or some attacks are not detected,” he added.
The government takes its role of protecting the privacy and security of all citizens seriously and will investigate to get to the bottom of these notifications, he added.