An investigation by Cobrapost on Tuesday claimed that it had caught as many as three dozens of Indian celebrities on camera, accepting the offer of money to promote the agenda of a political party by using their social media accounts in this year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The included Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leonne; comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar; and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth.
Kailash Kher, who famously lent his voice to the title song of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan or Clean India Movement, appeared more than keen to accept black money offered by the Cobrapost team. He said, “Wo saara wo hee batayenge … wo saara ho jayega aap unse baat kijiye (They [his agency] will tell you about it … that will be done. You talk to them).” Kher was recently in the news after a series of women including Sona Mohapatra accused him of sexual misconduct with MeToo allegations.
Choreographer Ganesh Acharya offered, “Dekho kya hai na mera jo hai na … baat karni hai na dance ke liye tweet maroonga na toh lakhon tak pahunchati hai, karodon tak pahunchati hai … toh aap mujhe content bhejenge usko thoda sa dance form mein aisa normal baat karoonga toh do teen lakh tak pahunchata hai (You see what happens … if I have to talk about dance and tweet about it, it reaches millions of people … so if I say something in a dance form on the content you will send me, it will reach two-three lakh people).”
While in some cases, managers took the onus of dealing with money matters on behalf of their bosses, in most of the cases, the celebrities were present when negotiations for money went on. A majority of these celebs negotiated for a fee much higher than initially proposed or they could command in the market. Although almost out of job in Bollywood, Mahima Chaudhary, for instance, demanded Rs. 1 crore for a single message. “BJP toh kuchh bhi de sakti hai. They can give one crore a month (The BJP can give you anything. They can give 1 crore a month),” she said.
Actress Amisha Patel, who shot to fame with Kaho Na Pyar Hai opposite Hrithik Roshan, said that she wanted to have the transfer of advance sum to take place before she would start making general tweets. She was heard saying on camera, “Samajho aap 28 ko aa rahe ho transaction ho jaata hai 28 kee sham ko main kar doongi taaki first week of September mein jab aapka pehla aa jaye toh wo paanch din ka gap rahega toh wo (Suppose, you say you are coming on 28. If transaction takes place on 28, I will post the tweet that very evening. So, when I receive the first advance in the first week of September, there will be a gap of five days).”
Item girl Rakhi Sawant boasted about her association with the BJP and said, “Last time bhi aise hua tha mujhe hire kiya tha Rajnath ji ne pata hai (Last time around the same had happened. I was hired by Rajnath ji, you know).”
Sawant even sent the Cobrapost team a video to showcase how she would promote the BJP.
Singer Mika Singh, for his part, said, “Humne kuch bola tha Kanwaljeet ko bhi ki iske alawa kisi aur ko bhi chahiye toh main do-chaar logon se baat kar loonga … lekin pehle ek baar apna ho jaaye (I had told Kanwaljeet that if you need help I can rope in some more people … but first let me start it).”