BJP used Cambridge Analytica's services for state polls, Mission 272+: Cong

Hitting back at Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for linking data mining firm Cambridge Analytica with the Congress, the party today said it was the BJP which hired the services of the controversial firm during Bihar and other state polls as well as for its 'Mission 272-plus' campaign.

Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala asserted that the services of the London-based company have never been hired by his party or its chief Rahul Gandhi.

He was reacting to Prasad's charge that the Congress planned to use the firm's services for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and boost Gandhi's profile and take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Surjewala termed Prasad's remarks as yet another attempt at "spin strategy" and to divert the country's attention from other issues like the death of Indians in Iraq, Rahul Gandhi's successful Karnataka campaign and on the SC/ST atrocities Act issue.

"BJP's factory of fake news has produced one more fake product today. It appears that fake press conferences, fake agendas and fake spins and fake statements have become the everyday character of BJP and its 'lawless' minister of law Ravi Shankar Prasad," he told reporters.

The Congress leader said the company's website claims that it ran a research and communication campaign, and was contacted to undertake an in-depth electorate analysis for the Bihar assembly elections in 2010.

Claiming that Cambridge Analytica and another Indian firm Ovelina Business Intelligence (OBI), run by the son of a prominent NDA leader from Bihar, complimented each other's businesses, Surjewala said their achievements include managing four successful election campaigns for the ruling BJP.

He claimed that Cambridge's local partner OBI talked of having achieved "target 272+" , providing constituency-wise database to BJP candidates and extending support to it in national elections and state elections of Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi.

"It is not me who is saying so; it is Cambridge Analytica which is saying so. And they have partners in India whose businesses complement each other. They have done 272+ campaign and the campaign for four states," he said.

Surjewala also alleged that OBI's services were used by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in 2009.

He also alleged that Modi hired a German-American firm APCO for 'Brand Gujarat' and for organising his international events, adding the same company was hired by Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and President of Kazakhstan Noor Sultan.

To a question on the the Centre's 'warning' to Facebook on data leak, the Congress leader said Modi met the company's founder Mark Zuckerberg in the US and is said to be his friend.

Surjewala said threats were being given to Indian media under the Modi government and now a warning was being given to an independent international media platform too.

Speaking at a press conference here, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had cited media reports about the opposition party's plan to use the UK-based firm's services for the next Lok Sabha elections and to boost its president Rahul Gandhi's profile.

He asked Gandhi to explain the company's role in his social media outreach.

The firm, the minister alleged, has been accused of using "sex, sleaze and fake news" to influence elections and asked if the Congress too planned to walk the same path.

"After being involved in thefts of land, water, spectrum, natural resources, Congress in association with Cambridge Analytica, has now ventured into theft of online data," Prasad added.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)