After Kali Puja, Bengal Governor, Mamata Banerjee Clash Over WhatsApp Row

Mr Dhankhar, who said he would not be a "caged Governor", has also claimed Ms Banerjee didn't wish him for Diwali and had failed to invite him to an international film festival that begins in Kolkata later this week

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has claimed her phone was hacked

Kolkata:

After a few days of relative peace, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar have returned to sniping at each other, with the WhatsApp snooping row and Israeli cybersecurity firm NSO at the centre of their latest fight. On Saturday Ms Banerjee alleged "spying" by the central government and said she had evidence her phone had been tapped. The next day Mr Dhankhar hit back with equally explosive claims, saying "many politicians and businessmen have said their privacy is compromised here".

The two leaders have been involved in several acrimonious exchanges over the past weeks, with the Governor going into a sulk last month after he accused Ms Banerjee's government of ignoring him at a Durga Puja carnival; a crying Mr Dhankhar called it one of the most "painful" moments of his life. Ms Banerjee responded by accepting a letter from the Governor asking to be invited to her residence for Kali Puja, where they exchanged sweets and a truce, temporary as it turned out, was declared.

"The Chief Minister has said she has evidence... what evidence, only she knows. But I can only say many people have met me - politicians and businessmen - and they have consistently said their privacy is compromised here," Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar said on Sunday, escalating the feud restarted by Mamata Banerjee a day earlier.

The ruling Trinamool Congress declared itself shocked at the Governor's comments, describing it as "street corner talk".

However, there was more to come from Mr Dhankhar, who claimed the Chief Minister had not wished him for Diwali. Declaring, in dramatic fashion, that he would not be a "caged Governor", he also said Ms Banerjee had failed to invite him to an international film festival that begins later this week.

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Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and his wife at Mamata Banerjee's puja

Mr Dhankhar's complaints were triggered by Ms Banerjee claiming the centre was using WhatsApp to spy on prominent members of civil society. She demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose government has denied complicity in the spread of the spyware - Pegasus - and asked the messaging platform for an explanation, "take care of this issue".

"My phone was tapped and I know about it as I have the evidence with me. The government is using this Israel NSO to watch the activities of politicians, media persons, lawyers and judges, the IAS, IPS officers, social activists, and other important personalities. This is wrong... no landline, mobile phones or WhatsApp messages are safe. There is spying going on," Ms Banerjee alleged.

Mamata Banerjee isn't the only high-profile politician to have claimed phone tapping. On Sunday the Congress alleged that the phones of three of their leaders, including Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, had been hacked.

As many as 1,400 WhatsApp users, across 20 countries, have been targeted by the Pegasus spyware. At least 121 of those targeted were Indians - journalists, activists, lawyers and senior government officials - who were spied on for a two-week period in April before national elections.

With input from ANI

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