Congress Conspired with Facebook to Win Elections: BJP

Rahul Gandhi addressing Ahmedabad's teaching community. Photo: Congress
Rahul Gandhi addressing Ahmedabad’s teaching community. Photo: Congress

BJP’s attack comes close on the heels of Congress-led opposition parties’ massive protests against the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Indian elections.

By Rakesh Raman

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi today blamed opposition party Congress for committing fraud in elections.

Technology and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said today that Congress depends on data manipulation and data theft to win elections, although Congress has hardly won any election in the recent past.

Most think Congress is a dead party which cannot win elections. But Ravi Shankar Prasad has alleged that Congress has an association with a rogue data analysis firm Cambridge Analytica.

The minister indicated that the beleaguered Congress party is stealing voters’ data to disrupt free and fair elections in India which is affecting the democratic values of the country.

BJP’s attack comes close on the heels of Congress-led opposition parties’ massive protests against the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in Indian elections.

Opposition parties believe that Modi and his party BJP have been tampering with EVMs since 2014 to win elections, including the Lok Sabha election of 2014.

[ Say “No” to EVMs and “Yes” to Paper Ballots in Indian Elections ]

The BJP minister alleged that the misuse of Facebook data by Cambridge Analytica for manipulation of democratic processes in many countries (including India) is a cause of concern.

Congress hit back by saying that BJP is playing hand in glove with the foreign firms to rig elections.

“BJP used the services of Cambridge Analytica and its associate Ovleno Business Intelligence (OBI) in the past. Will the law minister (Ravi Shankar Prasad) step forward and clear the air on the BJP-Cambridge Analytica nexus?” Congress tweeted.

These days, Facebook is in the eye of the storm as it is reported that a British consulting firm Cambridge Analytica was secretly manipulating Facebook data of nearly 50 million users.

[ Trump Defends Secret Russian Ads on Facebook in 2016 Election ]

Cambridge Analytica was selling data to politicians to help them win elections. It is said that the firm’s data was used by U.S. President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race. Similarly, the Brexit campaign also used stolen data.

Currently, special counsel Robert Mueller is leading an investigation to know the extent of Trump-Russia ties that may have helped Trump win 2016 presidential election.

“We uphold the use of social media and it has empowered every citizen who can ask us questions directly now. But abuse of social media that too by using foreign firms will not be acceptable,” said minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.

[ How to Use Aadhaar and EVMs to Win Elections in India ]

“We fully endorse freedom of press, freedom of speech and expression and free exchange of ideas on social media but any attempt by social media companies to influence India’s electoral process through undesirable means will neither be appreciated nor tolerated,” the minister warned.

He also said that there was a sudden surge in Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s social media following by using bots. “Are such things being used for developing fake followings on social media?” asked Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“There are allegations of data theft against this company (Cambridge Analytica) in USA and UK as well. How much data of Indian people have been shared by the Congress party with a rogue foreign data analytics firm?” asked Ravi Shankar Prasad.

“Recently we saw how social media was used to create social unrest before Gujarat elections. Now Karnataka elections are coming up and therefore use of such rogue foreign companies by a political party for influencing elections becomes a big concern,” the minister said.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. Besides working at senior editorial positions with leading media companies, he was writing an exclusive edit-page tech business column (named Technophile) regularly for The Financial Express (a daily business newspaper of The Indian Express Group).

Earlier, he had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development. He also runs a free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.

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Rakesh Raman