'Have details of Abhishek Banerjee’s phone calls': Suvendu amid Pegasus row
A video clip in which Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly, can be purportedly heard saying that he has records of all the phone calls made from the office of chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee has created a stir in Bengal, HT has learnt.
The video, in which Adhikari can be seen addressing a public meeting of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), surfaced a day after opposition parties targeted the BJP in Parliament by accusing the Centre of using an Israeli malware called Pegasus to snoop on opposition leaders, journalists and government officials. TMC alleged in Parliament that Abhishek Banerjee is among those whose phone was tapped.
In the 35-second video clip, Adhikari can be heard referring to the chief minister as “aunt” and Abhishek Banerjee, the TMC national general secretary and Lok Sabha member, as “nephew.”
The video was apparently shot in some district of Bengal recently. Adhikari can be heard saying, “The role of the IO (investigating officer), inspector-in-charge and the superintendent of police will be probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Then you will understand that no aunt can save you. Phone calls are made to you from the nephew’s office. I have all the phone numbers and call records. If you have the state government, we have the Central government.”
HT could not independently ascertain the authenticity of the video or identify the police officers referred to.
A section of the local media in Bengal, however, reported that Adhikari made the statement at a public meeting in East Midnapore district on Monday afternoon and he was referring to local police officers.
The East Midnapore police on Tuesday filed three suo motu cases against Adhikari, accusing him of intimidating government officials, insulting them and tapping their phones.
Amarnath K, superintendent of police, East Midnapore, said, "The cases have been lodged on the basis of the statement Adhikari made on Monday."
"Adhikari said he has phone records of police officers which he should not officially have. Hence a case has been registered under Official Secrecy Act. He made some communal statements for which Section 295 (A) of the Indian Penal Code has been added. A case has also been filed under the Disaster Management Act as more than 50 people had assembled for the meeting violating Covid restrictions." Amarnath K told the media.
Not denying the charges, Adhikari, who joined the BJP seven months ago, said, "One should not give importance to this. The TMC and police are synonymous."
Reacting to this, Bengal BJP's chief spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, "Suvendu Adhikari is a seasoned politician. He made the statements at a political rally. If the police can lodge cases against Adhikari why is Mukul Roy being spared? After joining the BJP (in 2017) he told a television channel that his phone was tapped by the TMC government."
Roy, who was a national vice-president of the BJP, returned to the TMC on June 11 along with his son.
The TMC reacted sharply saying the video confirms the illegal use of Pegasus by the BJP.
“Adhikari should be arrested immediately and interrogated in custody. He has proved that Pegasus was used to snoop on many people, including Abhishek Banerjee. This is a heinous crime. The Centre is misusing its powers,” said TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh.
Two senior state BJP leaders, who did not want to be identified, said they would not comment on his statements.
Adhikari is a legislator from East Midnapore’s Nandigram where he defeated the chief minister in the recent assembly polls by 1,958 votes. His father and one of his brothers are TMC Lok Sabha MPs.