Cambridge Analytica row: BJP, Congress trade barbs; RJD questions JD(U)'s 'zero tolerance' policy

The controversy surrounding the alleged data breach involving London-based Cambridge Analytica turned into a full-blown political blame game on Thursday. While the BJP and Congress traded barbs, the RJD questioned the lack of action by the JD(U) against senior leader KC Tyagi over the links of his son's company Ovleno Business Intelligence with the firm.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi charged the Narendra Modi government of using the data breach row to divert attention from the news of the 39 Indians killed in Iraq.

Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi lashed out at Rahul and asked why the Gandhi scion had a problem with the data leak expose.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of "lying' and referred to three news articles which claimed that Congress was in talks with the data mining company before the Gujarat elections.

These three articles published between October and November 2017, Prasad alleged, show that Congress misused the services of Cambridge Analytica to win elections in India.

"There are many suspicious signs available that show that they (Congress) misused the services of the company," he said. One of the articles defined the services of the data mining company as Congress' 'Brahmastra' in the Gujarat elections, he added.

"They have used and misused Cambridge Analytica during the Gujarat elections. And when they are caught, they are saying we have no connection with the company," he said.

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Agencies

Union law minister Ravi Shankar
Prasad and Congress president Rahul Gandhi. Agencies

Prasad alleged that Rahul's "entire social media campaign has been managed with the help of Cambridge Analytica and they have had meetings also."

At a press conference, Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said, "39 Indians lost their lives in Iraq. For four years, Modi government kept misguiding the people of the country. The proceedings are being disrupted so that they faults are not discussed."

Lashing out at the BJP, he said, "Ravi Shankar Prasad should be renamed from law minister to 'jhoot mantri'".

Taking a dig at the BJP-led government, he said, "Hitler had an associate called Goebbels, Narendra Modi has an associate called Ravi Shankar Prasad."

He accused the BJP of manufacturing "fake news". "Sabse bade data chor macha rahe hain sabse zyada shor (The biggest data thieves are now creating noise)", he said.

The Congress also alleged links between the BJP and Cambridge Analytica. As an evidence, it said that the former BJP IT data head and current head of MyGov website Arvind Gupta had tweeted in 2017, praising the firm. It also said that Union minister Smriti Irani follows Cambridge Analytica on Twitter.

JD(U) denies link with Cambridge Analytica

Tyagi denied that his son Amrish has received any help from the company Cambridge Analytica. "There was only a work relation between Amrish's company and Cambridge Analytics. There is no financial transaction or shareholding (by us in the data mining firm)."

Several reports had suggested a connection between OBI, owned by Amrish, and Cambridge Analytics.

"JD(U) also has no links with this, neither did they promote us in the 2010 polls," he told reporters. "If my son has committed a mistake, I would want the Indian government to take action against him," Tyagi's comment came after Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar sought his response over the issue on Thursday. RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav took a dig at Nitish Kumar's stance on zero tolerance of unethical practices, and told ANI that there is a difference between what "they say and what they do." Tejashwi also took to Twitter to question the two parties' involvement in the alleged data leak.

OBI reportedly mentions JD(U) and BJP as its clients on its website.

'Looking to end association with Cambridge Analytica'

The OBI released a statement, saying that it believes in ethics and the legal system of India.

"We are not denying our association with SCL/Cambridge Analytica but we are a ground research company closely working with various media houses and are not undertaking any project with Cambridge Analytica related to social media (specially Facebook). We are equally shocked and surprised to see the data breach controversy and are also looking to end our association with them. Cambridge Analytica has already suspended Alexander Nix, who is under fire in this controversy, but we are not authorised to speak on behalf of them," OBI said.

"We again want to clarify that neither the whistleblower nor Facebook has confirmed that there is any kind of data breach in India," it said.


Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 19:35 PM

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