Investigative platform Cobrapost on Tuesday claimed to have exposed 36 Bollywood personalities who agreed to promote for a fee any specified political party on their social media accounts ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Appearing to represent a fictitious Public Relations agency, undercover Cobrapost reporters approached several actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers with lucrative offers of quick money, ranging from more than ₹2 lakh, for promoting political parties through their accounts on various social media platforms. Some of the celebrities, having lakhs of followers on social media, sought as much as ₹50 lakh per message, according to the report.
However, four of those who were approached refused the offer straight away.
Cobrapost Editor Aniruddha Bahal said the sting operation was conducted last year and it took some time to release it after the post-production work.
“Most of them were willing to accept the bulk of their fee in cash, which in other words means black money,” Cobrapost said in a statement. “Celebs would tweak the content on various issues to be provided to them before posting the same on their social media profiles to make it look as their own… they agreed to send us their PAN and banking details, and many actually did so. They swore to keep the entire exercise a secret, and the agenda hidden,” the online news organisation said.
While some actors proposed that they would indirectly promote the political party in their press briefings during the promotion of a film or an event, others even offered to post videos on social media and make them go viral with the help of their followers.
“The party in question was, in most of the cases, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress Party in some cases,” Cobrapost said. “The names of political parties were used, in good faith and public interest, for narrative purpose only, and this is not an insinuation of their actual involvement in the practice. The investigation was made to expose the celebs willing to endorse a political agenda in return for monetary gains,” it said.
Mr. Bahal asserted that the report highlighted the need for the Election Commission to frame guidelines to regulate proxy campaigning by celebrities on social media by making such activity an offence on the lines of paid news and put in place a mechanism to monitor it.
“Or, they are asked to affix a disclaimer saying it is an advertisement to make their followers aware of their motive,” he suggested. — The Hindu