AP Assembly storm over Pegasus, panel to probe allegation

All legislators objected to the illegal use of Pegasus, expressed anger over the threat to their rights and sought a transparent probe

VIJAYAWADA: The AP Assembly witnessed stormy scenes on Monday on the alleged use of Pegasus software by the former TD government. In the end, a house committee was appointed to probe whether there was a purchase and use of Pegasus software by the Naidu government.

All legislators objected to the illegal use of Pegasus, expressed anger over the threat to their rights and sought a transparent probe. Assembly speaker Tammineni Sitaram announced that a House Committee to probe the matter would be announced in a day or two.

The controversy erupted in AP after West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee allegedly stated that Naidu bought the spyware during the TD term (obviously to spy on the opposition). The AP Assembly as debated the matter on Monday. Minister Buggana Rajendranath said a spyware like Pegasus would infringe on personal freedom. He recalled that CM Mamata had said Chandrababu had bought Pegasus software and this was a highly unethical act by Naidu.

He said Naidu’s action was a violation of human rights. “He used it to spy on politicians and this needs to be investigated by a house committee.”

YSRC MLA Abbai Chowdary said Naidu killed democracy by using spyware software. He sought a transparent probe. Another MLA Gudivada Amarnath termed Naidu an ‘immoral politician’ and said the silence of Naidu on Banerjee’s statement was proof about the purchase of the spyware by the TD government.

MLA Rambabu said Banerjee has no connection with YSRC and she was rather associated with Naidu. “Naidu tapped phones of all YSRC leaders through Pegasus spyware and did not spare BJP leaders who were part of the TD government at that time,” he said and sought a detailed investigation.

Speaker Sitaram announced that a house committee was being set up. The committee members would be announced on Tuesday or the day after tomorrow, he said.

In the Legislative Council, several YSRC MLCs called for the formation of a House Committee to probe the anomalies in the purchase and the of Pegasus spyware during the TD term.

MLC Prasada Rao called for a house committee or a police inquiry. MLC Mohammad Iqbal said the spyware even posed a threat to national security. He was critical of the previous TD government, saying it lured 23 YSR Congress MLAs and even offered minister posts to some of them to weaken the YSR Congress, through use of such spyware.

He alleged that former intelligence chief Venkateswara Rao’s son was involved in purchase of critical intelligence surveillance equipment from a firm based in Israel and sought a thorough probe. Several YSR Congress MLCs described the tapping of phones as a shameful act and demanded a probe by the CBI.

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