New Delhi: Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday lashed out at the Narendra Modi government over the WhatsApp snooping row, only to get a rejoinder from the BJP as war of words between the two parties escalated over the issue.

The war of words between the two sides on Saturday began when the interim Congress chief lambasted the Centre, calling its activities ‘illegal and unconstitutional.’ In the statement, she said, “Latest shocking revelation that through Israeli Pegasus software acquired by Modi government snooping and spying activities on activists, journalists and politicians have taken place.These activities are not only illegal and unconstitutional, they are shameful.”

Hitting back at the Congress chief, BJP working president JP Nadda said that while the government had clarified its stand on the issue, Sonia Gandhi should tell the country who authorised snooping on former President Pranab Mukherjee when he was a minister in the UPA government and Union Minister VK Singh when he was the Army Chief.

In 2011, as the-then Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee had alleged that his offices in the Finance Ministry were being snooped upon. Similarly, in 2013, VK Singh’s family had alleged that an attempt had been made to bug their residence after a Major entered there to remove the Army telephone exchange after his retirement.

A massive controversy erupted on Thursday when WhatsApp confirmed that Israeli surveillance firm NSO had used its Pegasus software to spy on 1,400 WhatsApp users across four continents. Those who were spied upon also included Indian human rights activists, journalists etc. While the Modi government has denied that it ordered snooping on the said users from India, WhatsApp has said that it did notify the concerned governments, including India, back in May itself.

The hacks are said to have taken place between April 29 and May 10.

The government has also sent a notice to WhatsApp over the issue and asked it to reply by November 4.

Besides Sonia, her children and fellow Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, too, have taken on the government over the issue.