West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday said her phone was most probably hacked as people close to her are among the potential targets of the Pegasus spyware, reported NDTV.

At a press conference in Delhi, Banerjee said that even if her phone was not directly put on surveillance, the devices of her nephew and Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee as well as Prashant Kishor, who was her election strategist in the recently-concluded Assembly elections, were allegedly targeted.

“If one phone is hacked, all are hacked,” she said. “What is Pegasus? It’s a high-loaded virus. Our safety and security are at risk. Nobody has freedom.”

The Pegasus spyware is licensed to governments around the world by the Israeli cyber intelligence company NSO Group. The company insists that it licences its software only to “vetted governments” with good human-rights records and that Pegasus is intended to target criminals.

But a leaked list, featuring more than 50,000 phone numbers “concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens”, was accessed by Paris-based media nonprofit Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International. It became the basis of a global investigation called the Pegasus Project in which 17 media organisations collaborated.

Indian news website The Wire, which is among the participants in the project, reported that Abhishek Banerjee’s number was found in the database.

Traces of Pegasus was also found in Kishor’s phone for 14 days in June 2021 and 12 days in July 2021, including as recently as July 13, according to digital forensics conducted by Amnesty International’s Security Lab.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, former Election Commissioner Ashok Lavasa and Industrialist Anil Ambani are among the other potential surveillance targets.

On Wednesday, Mamata Banerjee said the current situation in the country was more serious than the Emergency declared by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975, reported India Today. She added that all Opposition parties must work together to demand answers from the government.

Banerjee is in Delhi on a five-day visit and has been meeting several Opposition leaders, including Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Kamal Nath and Anand Sharma. She also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday. However, she skipped a meeting of Opposition leaders on Wednesday to discuss the Pegasus allegations.

On Monday, Banerjee’s West Bengal government had formed a two-member panel to investigate the surveillance allegations. On July 21, Banerjee had accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of trying to turn India from a democracy into a “surveillance state”.

Last week, Communist Party of India (Marxist) Rajya Sabha MP John Brittas and an advocate, ML Sharma, moved the Supreme Court separately seeking a court-monitored inquiry into the alleged surveillance

On united Opposition

On a question about leading a possible united Opposition ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Banerjee said: “I am not a political astrologer. It depends on situation. I have no problem if someone else leads.”

“I am a simple worker, want to continue as a worker,” she added, when asked if she could be the face of the Opposition.

She met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday evening and is expected to meet Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal later in the day. “When [PM Narendra] Modi will fight the next election, it will be with the country,” Banerjee said, reported the Hindustan Times.

She also used her 2021 state election slogan “khela hobe” to indicate that she was ready for a game in national politics, according to India Today.

As she tries to bring together various parties for an anti-BJP front, Banerjee said that she has maintained good relations with various political leaders including YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Naveen Patnaik, N Chandrababu Naidu, MK Stalin, Uddhav Thackeray and Hemant Soren.