The Congress on Wednesday denied having links with Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm accused of harvesting personal information from millions of Facebook users.
Addressing a press conference, Congress media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “This is a new lie from BJP's factory of lies. Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad has dished out a new lie by using fake news as diversion tactics. Congress never engaged or hired services of Cambridge Analytica”.
Earlier, Prasad cited media reports to allege that Congress had links with Cambridge Analytica. Taking a dig at Prasad’s press conference, Surjewala said, “Desperate times call for desperate press conferences. BJP's factory of fake news has produced another fake news today. Such baseless allegations shows character of the party”.
Surjewala accused the BJP and its ally the Janta Dal (United) of using the services of London-based firm during various elections.
“Fake Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is presenting fake agenda. The truth is contrary to this. The BJP and JDU used Cambridge Analytica. The BJP hired the Indian business partner of Cambridge Analytica — OBI during Delhi Assembly election and used its services. Apart from this, the firm also involved in the party’s Mission 272+ (BJP’s slogan for 2014 general election) as an additional support in Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi”, Surjewala added.
“We checked the profile of Himanshu Sharma, vice president of OBI on LinkedIn. He mentioned there that the company handled four election campaigns of ruling BJP.” Surjewala alleged.
Sharma's LinkedIn profile mentions the following achievements of OBI: Managed four election campaigns successfully for the ruling party-BJP achieve its target of 272+ by managing Cell Centre Management Project Profiling of each and every volunteer/supporter who had extended his support to get involved in our Mission 272+, and confidentially maintaining the database provided to BJP candidate as an additional support for national elections and state elections of Haryana, Jharkhand and Delhi.
Surjwala also alleged that Home Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the OBI office in 2009. “It shows the connection between BJP and the company. BJP has a lot to answer now”, he added.
OBI vice president Himanshu Sharma, who was mentioned by the Congress at the press conference, was earlier a director of a firm called B2B Alliances and joined OBI only recently. Speaking with Firstpost, Sharma said he “managed call centers run by the BJP during 2014 elections." However, he denied the other charges levelled against him by Surjewala.
Speaking to Firstpost, OBI managing director Amrish Tyagi — son of senior JD(U) leader KC Tyagi — said he was “invited by Cambridge Analytica to work with them as a researcher during US presidential election.” He added that after the controversy came to light, Cambridge Analytica sent him an advisory telling him not to talk to the media for now.
An OBI source told Firstpost Cambridge Analytica did not have a presence in India and that OBI did “some social projects” on their behalf. The source added that OBI does ground research and reporting for the London-based firm. The source added there was nothing wrong with that as the OBI is a legitimate business. Asked why the Congress was targeting Amrish and OBI, the source said the Congress was trying to add political spice because Amrish happened to be son of a senior JD(U) leader.
Both Tyagi and Sharma denied that they or their firm had anything to do with data leak. OBI has not signed any document to partner with Cambridge Analytica, but there was an understanding it would help the firm establish its footprint in India.
Cambridge Analytica is the eye of a storm after reports emerged that the firm accessed millions of Facebook users' personal data, which was used to identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behaviour to help President Donald Trump win the 2016 presidential election.
With inputs from Sanjay Singh
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Updated Date: Mar 21, 2018 18:36:00 IST