The BJP on Wednesday slammed the Congress for its alleged involvement with the disgraced firm Cambridge Analytica after its alleged role in stealing Facebook data to help politicians in elections was first reported by Janta Ka Reporter on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad warned the Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckergerg, of consequences if he did not come clean on the allegations of data theft from his social media platform. Prasad also went on to accuse the Congress of having hired Cambridge Analytica to help the party in Gujarat elections.
He quoted a report by Economic Times published last year on 9 October 2017 to substantiate his allegations. However, the Economic Times report merely attributes ‘media reports’ to support its claims that the CA chief Alexander Nix had met several opposition leaders to help UPA in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
The ET report titled ‘This is the Brahmastra Rahul Gandhi will hurl at PM Modi’ was suggestive of the fact that the newspaper had obtained clinching evidence in support of its claim. Hence the use of definitive word ‘will’ in title. However, the entire story failed to carry a single quote from any credible source other than simply relying on unnamed ‘media reports.’
A source had also tipped off Janta Ka Reporter about the Congress potentially hiring Cambridge Analytica in September last year. But, when we spoke to other highly reliable sources within the top leadership of the party, the claims were found to be lacking credibility.
Countering Prasad’s allegations on Wednesday, Congress party’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala quoted the claims made by none other than the Cambridge Analytica’s website. On its website, CA said that it was part of “India branch of the SCL group which offers ‘political campaign management’ among its services.”
Surjewala also said that the Congress or the Congress President had never used and ‘never hired the services of the company called Cambridge Analytica mentioned by the Union Law Minister.’ “This is a fake agenda, a white lie being dished out on fake facts by the Law Minister unfortunately and this has become a daily order with the Law Minister Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad,” he added.
The CA website also claims that it was hired for the Bihar assembly elections in 2010, when the BJP and JDU fought together. The website then states that ‘90% seats targetted by Cambridge Analytica being won.’ The BJP-JDU combine were the winners in the 2010 elections raising questions if the saffron party had hired a company which operates in stealing an individual’s personal data from social media platform.
In the report first published by Janta Ka Reporter in India on Tuesday, we had carried the video link to Channel 4 documentary, where Nix had confessed to adopting illegal means including supplying prostitutes to secure his clients’ victories in elections.
The BJP’s embarrassment doesn’t end here. A senior executive working for the Indian arm of the CA claims on his LinkedIn profile how his firm had helped the BJP secure 272+ seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Himanshu Sharma, Vice President with Ovleno Business Intelligence, the Indian arm of Cambridge Analytica, claims on his Linkedin page, “Managed four election campaigns successfully for the ruling party BJP. Achieved target of Mission 272+ by managing call centre management project-profiling of each and every volunteer/supporter who had extended his/her support to get involved…Database to be provided constituency wise to BJP candidate as an additional support for national elections and state elections of Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi.”
Barring Delhi, the BJP had won assembly elections in all three states.
According to a report by Economic Times, the paper Prasad quoted to attack the Congress on Wednesday, Ovleno was started by ‘socialist Indian politician K.C. Tyagi’s son Amrish Tyagi, who flew to the US last year to help Trump’s campaigners better understand and then target Asian-Americans. Tyagi wrote in a piece for The Economic Times that it was on Cambridge Analytica’s recommendations that Team Trump ran an ad in Hindi and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Yunaska celebrated Diwali at a Hindu temple in Virginia, a key swing state.’
KC Tyagi is a former Rajya Sabha member with the JDU, the BJP’s alliance partner in Bihar.