Cambridge Analytica row: OBI director had mentioned election campaigns for BJP on LinkedIn profile; references now deleted

The controversy over data mining involving UK-based company Cambridge Analytica has led to pitched battles between the BJP and the Congress, with both parties seeking to deny their own involvement and implicate the other. However, a report by NDTV has brought to light fresh evidence of links of the firm with the BJP.

The report states that Himanshu Sharma, a director of Ovlevo Business Intelligence (OBI), had mentioned on his LinkedIn profile that he "confidentially maintaining the database to be provided constituency wise to BJP candidate(s) as an additional support for national elections and state elections of Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi." He was also said to have mentioned that as director of OBI, he managed four election campaigns successfully for the BJP.

OBI is the India partner of CA.

However, the references to the BJP and the providing support for national and state elections have now been deleted from his LinkedIn profile.

Media reports have said that CA had access to millions of Facebook users' personal data, which is used to identify the personalities of voters in the US and influence their behaviour to help Donald Trump win the presidential elections there.

A case study on the company's website cites the example of the Bihar Assembly Election 2010, stating that the company undertook an 'in-depth electorate analysis' for the polls. It was tasked with identifying floating/swing voters for each party. According to the website, electoral apathy was prevalent there due to "the poor and unchanging condition of the state after 15 years of incumbent rule."

"Our client achieved a landslide victory, with over 90 percent of total seats targeted by CA being won," the website states. The JD(U)-BJP alliance won the 2010 election in Bihar.

In the recent past, the BJP and Congress have been hitting out at each other over the issue. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has alleged that the Congress used the services of Cambridge Analytica during the 2017 Gujarat Assembly Election. He accused the party of using illegal means to attempt to gain an upper hand in the election.

"Will Congress party depend upon data manipulation and theft to win votes?" he had asked.

The Congress was no less acerbic in its criticism of the ruling party. "The BJP government has now become a manufacturer of fake news and an epitome of post-truth," its spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Thursday. He alleged that the nexus between the BJP-JD(U) and CA has now been exposed.

Media reports also state that Amrish Tyagi, son of senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi, is the CEO of OBI. However, speaking to reporters on Thursday, KC Tyagi said that Amrish has received no help from the company Cambridge Analytica.

He also claimed that the JD(U) has no connection with the company. He has, however, asked the government to probe whether there was any misuse of data.

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 18:44:19 IST

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