‘Force Snapdeal to dump Aamir Khan: BJP IT chief told social media cell’

Says ex-volunteer in upcoming book, claims was told to target Govt critics

Written by Krishn Kaushik | New Delhi | Updated: December 27, 2016 11:35 am
aamir khan, aamir khan snapdeal, snapdeal brand ambassador, snapdeal aamir khan, amir khan, snapdeal, bjp, aamir khan RNG awards, India news Following his comments in November 2015 that were perceived to be critical of the government, the BJP social media cell organised a campaign to get Khan removed as the brand ambassador of Snapdeal.

The BJP social media cell was instructed, among others by the party’s IT cell head, to build pressure via social media on e-commerce platform Snapdeal to drop actor Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador following his comments in November 2015 that were perceived to be critical of the government, a former volunteer of this social media team has claimed in an upcoming book.

Sadhavi Khosla, who quit the BJP social media cell as a volunteer at the end of 2015, has shared purported WhatsApp messages sent to her with journalist Swati Chaturvedi whose book I am a Troll is being published by Juggernaut.

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At the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards ceremony on November 23, 2015, Aamir Khan, speaking on the debate over perceived acts of intolerance, said: “Kiran (his wife Kiran Rao) and I have lived all our lives in India. For the first time, she said, should we move out of India? That’s a disastrous and big statement for Kiran to make to me. She fears for her child. She fears about what the atmosphere around us will be. She feels scared to open the newspapers everyday. That does indicate that there is a sense of growing disquiet.”

Following these remarks, Khosla said the BJP social media cell organised a campaign to get Khan removed as the brand ambassador of Snapdeal. She shared messages she claimed were sent to her from Arvind Gupta, head of the BJP IT cell, and other WhatsApp groups associated with the team.

WATCH VIDEO | Did BJP’s IT Cell Head Plot Aamir Khan’s Removal As Snapdeal Brand Ambassador?

One message from Gupta, purportedly sent to Khosla two days after Khan’s comments, stated: “Sign the Petition to Snapdeal India. Appeal Snapdeal to drop Aamir Khan from their ads.” It provided the link to sign an online petition. At the end of January 2016, Snapdeal did not renew Khan’s contract.

bjp-it-whatsappWhen Gupta’s comments were sought, he sent an email response acknowledging that he heads the party’s IT department. But rejecting Khosla’s claims, he said she “supports the Congress” and “has all reasons to publish unsubstantiated claims”, and that Chaturvedi is basing her “fictitious stories on the same due to vested interests”.

Gupta said BJP never “encouraged trolling” and had published social media guidelines on its website. He said he “does not directly supervise social media activities since 2015 when the party structure was reorganised”. He said the social media cell of the BJP is being headed by another person since July 2015.

Another WhatsApp message of November 24, 2015 — a day after Khan’s statement — from HDL (in her book, Chaturvedi writes that it stands for Hindu Defence League) that Khosla shared, stated: “Time to attack Snapdeal like…(we) did with greenply plywood and forced them to withdraw the defamatory ad!! Snapdeal customer care number…& threaten of negative publicity & ruining business if amir khan is not kicked out from brand ambassadorship!! Let’s show Hindu unity.”

HDL also shared with Khosla a magazine cover from 2005 on Aamir Khan with a story headlined, “2 Year Old Jaan! The child Aamir Khan abandoned” as material to be used on social media against the actor. According to Chaturvedi, HDL’s Twitter handle was @HDLindiaOrg and it had Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a follower — the account now stands suspended.

On July 30 this year, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, without mentioning Aamir Khan, spoke about an “actor” and an online trading company. “I am only trying to point out… If anyone speaks like this, he has to be taught a lesson of his life,” Parrikar said at a book launch in Pune. He called the actor’s statement “arrogant” and then added, “some of our people are very smart, I know. There was a team working on this. They were telling people you order and return it… The company should learn a lesson, they had to pull his advertisement.”

As head of the National Digital Operations Centre, Gupta directed the entire social media campaign for Modi’s ‘Mission 272+’ in the run-up to the 2014 elections, Khosla claimed. The BJP social media operation, according to Chaturvedi, is run from the party’s national headquarters at 11 Ashok Road, New Delhi.

“If there was even an unfavourable mention of Modiji anywhere, Gupta’s digital tracking tools would pick it up and the pack of hyena-like trolls would descend,” Chaturvedi quotes Khosla in her book. Gupta’s core team, Khosla claimed, managed 20-21 WhatsApp groups, which were divided by profession and gender, among other categories. Through these groups, she claimed, Gupta and his team sent out directions on what should be tweeted.

When The Indian Express sought her comments, Khosla said issues like lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq over suspicion of possessing beef, and “growing hatred in the country” disappointed her. “We didn’t vote BJP for all this, we voted Modi for development,” she said.

On the attacks on Aamir Khan, Khosla said: “For 25 years, they were our superstars. Now for the past two years, they have become terrorists?” Members of the social media cell, Khosla said, were told what to tweet, what hashtags to use, and were also given a “hit list” of journalists including Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai to be “constantly attacked”.

‘SHE SUPPORTS CONG, VESTED INTERESTS’

Rejecting Sadhavi Khosla’s claims, head of BJP IT cell Arvind Gupta said she “supports the Congress” and “has all reasons to publish unsubstantiated claims.” Gupta said BJP never “encouraged trolling” and had published social media guidelines on its website. He said he “does not directly supervise social media activities since 2015 when the party structure was reorganised”. He said the social media cell of the BJP is being headed by another person since July 2015.

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  1. R
    raju raj
    Dec 27, 2016 at 5:35 am
    In this way BJP media pla anti national activity.
    Reply
    1. R
      raju raj
      Dec 27, 2016 at 5:33 am
      what happen with snapdeal is that due to aamir khan as b ambasdor right wing never liked the snapdeal . by removing aamir snapdeal brought the ire of silent secularites which damged the company further. So a enterprise got damaged this way in our country.now amazon rocks.we indian are the best enemy of ourselves.
      Reply
      1. M
        Man
        Dec 27, 2016 at 10:52 am
        Any party apat from bjp
        Reply
        1. N
          Nitesh Pandey
          Dec 27, 2016 at 7:03 am
          God help the country when the defense minister is raving about trolling and resorting to such tactics as buying and returning items bought online to teach a lesson.lt;br/gt;Still feel Aamir was wrong in saying he contemplated leaving the country. He is an Indian citizen and if there is a problem he should stick around to fight. lt;br/gt;Also I feel there is little to choose between congress and bjp, both are equally communal.
          Reply
          1. F
            Framak
            Dec 27, 2016 at 5:56 am
            It is amazing what lengths peopel will got to in an attempt to create communal disharmony
            Reply
            1. G
              Gagan Ranu
              Dec 27, 2016 at 2:59 pm
              Sach preshan ho sakta hai,lekin prajit nhi
              Reply
              1. R
                Raj
                Dec 27, 2016 at 7:40 am
                Same kind as was on modi. He being A PM can howl like a cry baby then why can a common citizen of the country not express his apprehensions?
                Reply
                1. H
                  Hindustan Hamara
                  Dec 27, 2016 at 1:18 am
                  Semi literate Sanghi people want 'Yes Sir' guys all around. They don't want any discourse or discussion. Thank God they are now exposed.
                  Reply
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