Cambridge Analytica-Congress links: BJP seeks apology from Rahul Gandhi

Congress President Rahul Gandhi
The BJP on Tuesday attacked the Congress over a Cambridge Analytica (CA) whistleblower’s deposition naming the Opposition party. The BJP demanded an apology from Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

 

The Congress insisted it had never used the services of the British data analytics and political advisory firm that is now embroiled in a controversy for micro-targeting voters in the US and the UK elections using data it had mined from Facebook. It also claimed it had evidence that Ovleno Business Intelligence, an arm of CA, conspired to spread misinformation about the Congress-led UPA government in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

 

A former CA employee, Christopher Wylie, in a deposition before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the UK House of Commons, had revealed that the firm had worked extensively in India and that he believed its services were employed by the Congress.

 

“Rahul Gandhi has been trying to divert attention. Today, he stands exposed. The Congress and he must apologise to the nation,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding the Congress’ allegations against the BJP were full of lies.

 

During the House of Commons deposition, Labour Party member Paul Farrelly said, “When you look at Facebook’s biggest market, India is on the top in terms of numbers of users. Obviously, that is a country rife with political discord and opportunities for destabilisation.”

 

“They (Cambridge Analytica) worked extensively in India,” Wylie responded. “I believe their client was the Congress, but I know they have done all kinds of projects.” The 28-year-old offered to provide the committee “documentation” on India.

 

Wylie also said his predecessor, Dan Muresan, head of elections at the SCL group, had been working in India before he died in Kenya under mysterious circumstances.

 

He claimed to have heard stories that Muresan, a Romanian national, may have been poisoned in a hotel room.

 

Paul-Olivier Dehaye, co-founder of PersonalData.IO, a service that helps individuals regain control over their personal data, also gave evidence to the committee. He said he had heard Muresan was being paid by an Indian billionaire.

 

“So, he was pretending to work for one party, but was actually paid underhand by someone else,” said Dehaye.

 

The Congress did not shy away from responding to the allegations against it. Its spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala, pointed to the disclosure that a non-resident Indian billionaire from Gujarat was funding campaigns so that the Congress could be defeated in the elections.

 

He said Avneesh Rai, an Indian citizen and partner in Ovleno Business Intelligence, had disclosed it was hired and used in 2014. “Prasad has not rebutted Avneesh Rai. Prasad is lying. We dare him to lodge an FIR,” Singh said.