Opposition divided over focus on Pegasus
At Sonia meet, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren flags challenge of explaining issue to voters
At the Friday’s meeting of 19 opposition parties, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren raised questions on whether the emphasis on the Pegasus cyberattack was misplaced and spoke of the challenges of effectively communicating the issue to the general public with any political impact. With three States going for polls early next year, many within the Congress and other parties feel that the strong focus on the issue may not be helping the Opposition’s cause and it could even turn out to be a second Rafale.
According to the sources, Mr Soren said that while Pegasus is important, how does it impact the common man on the street or a farmer struggling against the new farm laws. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury countered to say that Opposition leaders have to convey the wider implications of the snooping episode, on how all the institutions were controlled by the government using this spyware and how dangerous it is for democracy.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the Pegasus spyware was used by the BJP government to turn the country into a “totalitarian state”.
However, a section of Opposition leaders at the meeting agreed that communication on Pegasus would be a challenge.
The first test of political currency of the Pegasus snooping episode will come up during assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand which are scheduled for early next year.
There is a section within the Congress too who feel that “Pegasus First” was a wrong strategy to follow in the recent monsoon session of Parliament. Members from Punjab and Haryana, felt aggrieved since the farmers’ agitation was relegated to the background.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi said the elections can’t be fought on one issue alone. The U.P. elections were a mandate on “misrule” by the Yogi Adityanath government in the State, especially his “disappearing act” during the second wave of the COVID pandemic. The Pegasus cyberattack remains important but there are many issues on which the government needs to be questioned, he said. “Right now we are going through a huge economic disruption which has been brought about on us by the BJP government,” Mr. Owaisi said.
BSP and SP leaders both agree that taking the Pegasus issue to a largely rural electorate in Uttar Pradesh would be an uphill task. BSP Lok Sabha MP Ritesh Pandey said the Pegasus can’t be a rallying cry for the polls but equally it can’t be dismissed as a non-issue.
“Yes, it will be easier to talk to the affluent and more urbanised audience about the Pegasus issue, but since the Opposition has been talking about it, people want to know. They are fearful that their rights might already be compromised,” Mr. Pandey said.
Privacy is an alien concept for a large section in the State, Samajwadi Party leader and former Rajya Sabha MP Javed Ali Khan said, but at the same time, this is an issue that is bothering the opinion makers. “The snooping episode is a matter of concern among the educated section. And the fact that they are the opinion makers, the concern could percolate down,” he said.