With the war of words between the BJP and Congress intensifying over alleged links to Cambridge Analytica — which is at the centre of an international storm over alleged manipluation of elections — both sides accused each other of utilising the services of the London-based firm during election campaigns in the past. Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP of inventing a story of data theft by the Congress to divert attention from the death of 39 Indians in Iraq, an issue over which the government has come under severe criticism, while the BJP warned its political rival against “politics on dead bodies”.
Reiterating the allegations he raised on Wednesday, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad insisted that the opposition party and Rahul used the services of Cambridge Analytica. Addressing a press conference, Prasad said: “All I will tell Rahul Gandhi is that he should not do politics on dead bodies of Indians who lost their lives in very unfortunate circumstances.”
He was responding to Rahul’s comment that the government invented a controversy to divert attention from the questions the party had raised. “Problem: 39 Indians dead; Government on the mat, caught lying. Solution: Invent story on Congress and Data Theft. Result: Media networks bite bait; 39 Indians vanish from radar. Problem solved,” Rahul had tweeted.
The Congress has been accusing the government of managing headlines to deflect the country’s focus from the PNB bank scam, dilution of provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities Act and questions being raised by the families of those killed in Iraq. Prasad also alleged that several media reports about the opposition party using the firm’s services had appeared last October and November and it never denied those stories until the BJP raised the issue on Wednesday. “The articles appeared in October and it’s been months. The Congress never denied the reports. The Congress party maintained a conspicuous silence on the role of a dubious company,” he said at a press conference at Parliament House building.
Prasad said the Congress campaign, which was “full of fake news” and “poisonous and divisive”, had the imprints of Cambridge Analytica. “Rahul Gandhi’s entire social media campaign has been managed with the help of Cambridge Analytica and they have had meetings also,” he said.
The minister of law and justice and IT denied that the BJP had tied up with CA. There is no authentic confirmation of any Indian partner of the company working for the BJP or its allies, he said. He, however, sought to make a distinction between CA and its partner, saying the former has been accused of using honey-trap and data theft.
Congress’ communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said the government had lied to the families of the 39 Indians about their loved ones being alive even after evidence suggested they were killed years ago. “Families ask questions — Why did Modi Government and Sushmaji mislead them for 4 yrs?… Another lie, Another spin exposed as truth unravels on Mosul Tragedy…” he tweeted.