Amid a series of reports revealing the possibility of several high-profile journalists, ministers, and Opposition leaders being targeted by the Israel-made spyware Pegasus, a report by an Indian news portal has claimed that poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s phone was also infected by the spyware.
The phone number of a close aide of Kishor also showed up on the list of potential targets.
Kishor has served as a political advisor and poll-strategist for a range of Opposition parties including the DMK in Tamil Nadu, the Congress party in Punjab, and the TMC in West Bengal; after having helped BJP win the 2014 Lok Sabha poll.
In addition, The Wire and its media partners, on 19 July, also mentioned that the phone numbers of prominent figures, including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, and BJP ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel have featured on the list of “potential targets”.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress leader
At least two mobile phone accounts used by Gandhi were among the several Indian contacts listed as 'potential targets'. Other than Gandhi, numbers of five of his friends and acquaintances were also reportedly targeted.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, IT Minister
The newly-appointed minister may have been “targeted for possible surveillance” in 2017. Along with his numbers and that of his wife, the numbers of his associates also figure in the list, the report said.
Prahlad Singh Patel, MoS for Ministry of Jal Shakti
Patel was recently shifted to the Jal Shakti ministry under Cabinet minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat from his previous posting at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, where he held independent charge.
Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamool Congress MP
Banerjee is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Along with him, his personal secretary's phone number also finds mention on the list.
Ashok Lavasa, former Election Commissioner of India
Lavasa had in 2019 opposed the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former BJP President Amit Shah on charges of violating the Model Code of Conduct during the polls. He was purportedly selected as a potential candidate for surveillance just weeks after his dissent.
Jagdeep Chhokar, founder of a renowned election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)
Eleven phone numbers belonging to the Supreme Court staffer who accused former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi of sexual harassment, and her close relatives
Gagandeep Kang, virologist
Hari Menon, India head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
At least one other Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation employee
An official of the US Centre for Disease Control posted in India at the time was also a potential target of surveillance
G Parameshwara, former Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister
Phone numbers belonging to personal secretaries of former Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy
Leader of Opposition in Karnataka, Siddaramaiah
Six senior officials from seed giant Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (India) Pvt Lt and Monsanto India
At least 14 World Leaders Also Potential Pegasus Targets
The list includes 14 world leaders, out of which at least seven are still in power:
French President Emmanuel Macron: According to The Wire, Macron’s name appeared in the list as he embarked on a trip to Africa in 2019 with stops in Dijbouti and Ethiopia.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa: According to a The Guardian report, President Ramaphosa's number was found in a batch of numbers listed in 2019.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan: According to The Wire, Khan is the only foreign leader who has two listed phone numbers in the leaked database and his number was added by an unidentified agency in mid-2019 in a batch of Indian telephone numbers for the period of 2017-2019.
Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani and Moroccan King Mohammed VI: According to The Wire, the phone numbers of Morocco’s King and PM were discovered in a small subset of phone numbers, which was allegedly selected by Moroccan security forces.
Iraqi President Barham Salih: According to The Wire, PM Barham Salih's phone number was inserted into the leaked database in 2018 and 2019 in two subsets consisting of UAE and Saudi numbers.
Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly
Moroccan Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Former Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda
Former Algerian Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui
Former Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel
(With inputs from The Wire)