India’s next general election is still three years away but work on building unity among opposition parties to challenge the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party has already started, Congress leader P Chidambaram said.
“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,” the former finance minister told The Quint’s Editorial Director Sanjay Pugalia in an interview.
Chidambaram emphasised that the opposition unity needs to reflect on the ground as well. Opposition parties need to field at least one candidate in every seat against the BJP and its allies, he said. “That’s all that matters. It’s not impossible to field one candidate against BJP in minimum of 400 seats.”
The opposition leaders from various parties feel very strongly about the eroding liberty and growing autocracy in the country, he said.
The opposition parties have announced mass demonstrations in all states on Sept. 20.
Questions On Pegasus Spyware
Chidambaram questioned why the Indian government is yet to clarify whether it used the NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware on its citizens. A recent investigation by 17 media platforms across the world, including The Wire in India, indicates that phones of several political activists, journalists and others were on a surveillance list. “All the government needs to do is say yes or no to whether they acquired the Pegasus spyware,” he said.
The senior Congress leader listed two questions that the opposition has about Pegasus:
Whether the government of India or any of its agencies acquired the Pegasus spyware.
Was the spyware used to infiltrate the phones of former election commissioner, journalists, and political leaders?
Chidambaram pointed to how France, the seller of the Rafale plane, had initiated a judicial investigation into alleged corruption in the deal, to find out whether favours were done or if certain kickbacks were given. India’s opposition has been demanding a joint parliamentary committee to be set up to probe the deal signed in 2016 to acquire the jets from Dassault Aviation.
“If the government thinks they can forever bury this truth, then they are completely wrong.”