Cambridge Analytica scandal, data mining, and Facebook data breach — as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Congress political slugfest over who has links with the controversial data consultancy firm Cambridge Analytica (CA) escalates, these terms have come to replace the usual cudgels of ‘scam’, ‘corruption’ and ‘anti-national’ that political parties beat each other with. The BJP claims that the firm has been involved in Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s social media campaign, while the Congress is asking if the government will lodge an FIR against the company and its India partner Oveleno Business Intelligence (OBI).
Both the Indian National Congress and the BJP are accusing each other of having availed of the services of the controversial firm accused of stealing data and influencing elections. The Congress stepped up its attack on the BJP, alleging that the party hired the company’s services in various state Assembly elections — Bihar, Maharashtra, Haryana, Jharkhand, and Delhi — besides for its ‘Mission 272 plus’ in the 2014 general elections. The BJP has alleged that Cambridge Analytica’s footprints were visible in the Congress’ campaign in last year’s Gujarat Assembly elections.
BJP leader and Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who created a political firestorm on Wednesday with the allegations that the Congress was employing the services of the London-based political data analytics firm, fired fresh salvos claiming that the firm was involved in Rahul Gandhi’s social media campaign. Prasad added that there had been meetings, too, in this regard.
Congress spokesperson in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala termed Prasad as a “minister of lies”. Surjewala asked the BJP that if “Cambridge Analytica was involved in stealing data, then why did it take its services”.
Here are the top 10 developments in the BJP-Congress political slugfest around the Cambridge Analytica scandal and data mining:
1) Cambridge Analytica behind Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ jibe: With both parties trading blows over who used data mining and Facebook data in elections, the BJP stepped up its attack on Rahul Gandhi and the Congress, saying that Cambridge Analytica’s “footprints” were visible in the Opposition party’s campaign in Gujarat. Further, the BJP suggested that Cambridge Analytica had a role in the Congress chief’s use of the term “Gabbar Singh Tax”.
Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters that the data analytics firm was known for its “aggressive and fake news” campaign. Prasad suggested that it had a role in Gandhi’s social media campaign and the Congress’ “poisonous” electioneering in Gujarat.
2) ‘Will BJP file FIR against Cambridge Analytica?’: Congress has asked the BJP why it avail of the company’s services if Cambridge Analytica was involved in stealing data. Further, the Congress asked the BJP whether it would register an FIR against Cambridge Analytica and its Indian arm Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI).
3) Smriti Irani, BJP’s ex-IT head follow Cambridge Analtytica: Congress also said that Minister of Information & Broadcasting Smriti Irani followed Cambridge Analtytica on Twitter and BJP’s former IT head Arvind Gupta — who currently runs the government’s biggest portal (mygov.in) — had described Cambridge Analtytica as a “powerful tool”.
“BJP government has now become a manufacturer of fake news and an epitome of post-truth. The business alliance between BJP-JD(U) and Cambridge Analytics has now been exposed,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
Read Claude Smadja’s column for Business Standard on the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal: Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal: Power to them who control data
4) Take action instead of holding press conferences, Congress tells BJP: Senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had some advice for the BJP. He said that instead of holding press conferences, the ruling party should take action over its allegation that the Opposition party is indulging in data theft to influence elections in India.
Alleging that the BJP has dished out fake news for long, Singhvi said that the spread of false information has been its forte.
“BJP is the party in power. Rather than holding press conferences, why doesn’t it take action?” he said about Union Law and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s charge that the Opposition party was using data manipulation and theft to woo voters.
ALSO READ: Cambridge Analytica row: Congress, BJP in war of words over hiring firm
5) Rahul Gandhi doing politics over dead bodies of Indians: Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Rahul Gandhi of doing politics on the dead bodies of the 39 Indians killed by ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul, after the Congress chief criticised the government, alleging that it had brought up the Cambridge Analtytica issue to divert attention from the killing of 39 Indians.
Addressing a press conference, Prasad said it was the Congress that disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had sought to make a statement on the deaths of these Indians. “All I will tell Rahul Gandhi, he should not do politics on dead bodies of Indians who lost their lives in very unfortunate circumstances,” he said.
Read what Congress President Rahul Gandhi has to say about BJP’s allegations in the Cambridge Analytica row: Linking Congress to data scam diversionary tactics: Rahul
6) ‘Congress’ silence on Cambridge Analtytica disqualifies it from running country’: Ravi Shankar Prasad also questioned Rahul Gandhi’s “silence” for more than five months over media reports that had claimed that the Congress had roped in Cambridge Analtytica as its ‘Brahmastra (ultimate weapon)’ to counter Prime Minister Narendra Narendra Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
“The report in this regard was first published on October 9, 2017, and the party maintained silence until I raised the issue on Wednesday,” Prasad said, adding, “They denied the allegations when they found themselves in trouble after the issue was brought to the fore.”
“The Congress cannot run away from this fact. If the Congress maintains a conspicuous silence on such an important news of the involvement of a dubious social media company and does not counter it, then I am sorry. They don’t have any right to run the country,” he said.
ALSO READ: CA maintaining Rahul’s social media campaign: BJP
7) Congress calls Ravi Shankar Prasad ‘lie minister’: Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said that “now a new fake agenda” is being used to stop the proceedings in Parliament. Surjewala added that instead of law minister, Prasad should be called a “lie minister”.
“One who stole data (Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg) is also Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s friend. Still they are shouting so much. Modiji and Prasad must reply to a few questions,” he added.
ALSO READ: Data breach: Congress denies link, slams BJP for lying
8) ‘Why did BJP use Cambridge Analtytica if it knew the firm was stealing data?’: The Congress also posed several questions for the BJP, demanding answers from the ruling party. “Didn’t they (BJP and Modi) take services of OBI and CA? For Mission 272+, this company was used. Didn’t you know they were involved in stealing data?” Surjewala said.
The Congress party also said: “Didn’t BJP use the services of CA’s Indian arm OBI during its election campaign in four states — Jharkhand, Haryana, Maharashtra and Delhi? Didn’t BJP’s former IT head Arvind Gupta praise the company?”
“Gupta said CA is a ‘powerful tool’ and when used correctly can provide deep insights and fine-tune communication and outreach strategy,” Surjewla noted.
“If CA steals data, then why is Smriti Irani following the company on Twitter? Are thieves being followed by ministers. Will he assure the country that he will lodge an FIR against CA, OBI and SCL (Strategic Communications Laboratories) — CA’s parent company?” he further said.
He also asked why isn’t Modi government filing an FIR against Cambridge Analytica, if it is involved in data stealing.
9) ‘Modi government a data leak government’: The Congress also asked, “Is it not true that in 2010, during Bihar election, BJP and JD-U used the services of CA and OBI.” Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “Isn’t Modi government a data leak government? There are several instances of data leak under this government.”
Citing an article, Surjewala said: “Amrish Tyagi (K. C Tyagi’s son), who runs the OBI, had worked in the US President’s war-room, and now says in an article that CA is his partner and friend.”
10) ‘Modi govt trying to divert attention from Nirav Modi, Rafale deal issues’: Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the BJP was trying to use the Cambridge Analtytica issue to divert attention from Punjab National Bank scam accused Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi’s escape from India and alleged scandals, including allegations of impropriety in the acquisition of the Dassault Rafale combat jets for the Indian Air Force.
“They should reply to these questions. It just won’t work to divert attention from Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi escape, Rafale deal, 39 Indians’ killing in Iraq, SSC scam, unemployment issue and farmers’ crisis, in Parliament,” Surjewala added.business-standard