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Chidambaram Exclusive: 'Our Liberty Being Infringed by This Government'

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram in conversation with The Quint's Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia.

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Video Producer: Naman Shah

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram speaks with The Quint's Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia on subjects varying from Pegasus Snoopgate to Opposition unity.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Giving the reason of national security, the government in the Supreme Court has neither denied nor confirmed their role in the Pegasus row. Is the government leading the issue to another dead end?

One has to be careful before commenting because the matter is subjudice in the Supreme Court. The issue is very simple. The Opposition doesn't want to know anything about national security. All we want to know is —1. whether the government of India or any of its agencies acquired the Pegasus spyware. It is not an ordinary software. 2. Was the spyware used to infiltrate the phones of former election commissioner, journalists, and political leaders. We don't want to know if they have infiltrated spies or suspected terrorists.

The government indicates that they won't reveal anything, rather they will give their response in a sealed-cover. Will that be acceptable to the Supreme Court?

I don't know what the Supreme Court will do or say. All I can point out is the two-year old judgment where the Supreme Court has frowned upon the sealed-cover procedure. Sealed cover means that the other side doesn't know what is inside. But our system of court hearings is — facts must be known to both sides and then the judges must decide.

Opposition meetings look like procedural exercise. People are not sure if the Opposition will put up a good fight against the government.

You are not right. The Opposition consists of one national party and various other regional parties. Therefore, we have announced that on 20 September there will be mass demonstrations in all states. You are sitting in Delhi and looking at it from Delhi point of view. Come down to Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Maharashtra — there is a lot more discussion than you find in Delhi. The language newspapers and language channels are far more active vocal and vibrant than their English or Hindi counterparts. The real mark will be made when the campaign starts for the upcoming Assembly elections in the five states — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Punjab, and Manipur. It's in the election time when the issues are debated ferociously and the government is bound to answer.

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Can the Opposition steer through the questions about Prime Ministerial face?

Sonia Gandhi, Sharad Pawar, Mamata Banerjee, Uddhav Thackeray, etc have all reached high positions because of their sacrifice and work in party. It is wrong to assume that everybody is selfish and self centered. These leaders feel very strongly about the eroding liberty and growing autocracy in the country. They will find a way to contest the elections and we can talk about forming the government after we win the elections. Elections are still three years away and we are working towards building Opposition unity. I am very happy that the work has started three years before the elections. Usually, such efforts take place six months before the election. It is a good sign that we have started the work for 2024 in 2021.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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