Congress misused services of Cambridge Analytica during 2017 Gujarat polls, says BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad

Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Congress of "lying" and of misusing the services of data mining company Cambridge Analytica, which has been in the news for allegedly manipulating Facebook and mining personal data without authorisation, during the Gujarat Assembly elections in December 2017.

Citing three news articles which were published between October and November 2017, some of which had claimed the services of Cambridge Analytica as 'Congres party's Brahmastra' against BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prasad alleged that Congress has "used and misused" the services of the company to win the elections.

 Congress misused services of Cambridge Analytica during 2017 Gujarat polls, says BJPs Ravi Shankar Prasad

File image of Ravi Shankar Prasad. PTI

"There are many suspicious signs available that show that they (Congress) used and misused the services of the company. Congress was involved with Cambridge Analytica in the Gujarat elections," Prasad alleged.

Prasad also called Congress of being a party without ethics, saying they used illegal means to gain an upper hand in the state Assembly election.

Launching a direct attack on Rahul Gandhi in a press conference on Thursday, Prasad questioned why the Congress president failed to clarified his party's links with Cambridge Analytics when the articles first appeared last year. "When they are caught, they are saying we have no connections with the company," he further added.

Prasad also said that Congress' conspicuous silence on the issue — for four-five months — has raised some serious questions about its leadership's (Rahul's) "ability to govern the country".

The BJP spokesperson had also raised the same issues on Wednesday as well asking Gandhi to explain Cambridge Analytica's role in his social media profile. "Will Congress party depend upon data manipulation and theft to win votes?" he had asked.

Cambridge Analytica is in the eye of a fresh data leak controversy, as reports emerged that the firm had access to millions of Facebook users' personal data, which is used to identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behaviour to help US president Donald Trump win elections.

According to reports, the company's CEO Alexander Nix had been in talks with several Opposition parties in India to design an electoral strategy for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections.

Another report claimed that the company was in talks with both Congress as well as BJP through its India partner Oveleno Business Intelligence Private Limited. Interestingly, OBI's CEO is Amitesh Tyagi, son of Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi, who has previously worked with individual candidates in the Uttar Pradesh elections in 2017 and with JD(U)-BJP to manage booth-level demographic data.  The company, however, denies its involvement in any social media work yet.

Polling for the new state Assembly had taken place in two phases on 9 and 14 December, and the results were declared on 18 December. Though BJP had retained power winning 99 seats in the state Assembly election, Congress had surprised everyone by winning 73 seats in Modi's home state.

But despite neck-to-neck campaigning by senior BJP leaders, including the prime minister and a few pre-poll sops, BJP failed to achieve its target of winning 150 seats in the 183-member Assembly.

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Updated Date: Mar 22, 2018 15:44:24 IST