Cobrapost’s latest sting operation revealed how 36 Bollywood celebrities were prepared to promote a political party for money by posting favourable messages on their social media accounts to help create a favourable environment for BJP in the run-up to 2019 elections.
Cobrapost, an Indian web portal dedicated to investigative journalism, claims that nearly three dozen Bollywood celebrities are willing to promote political parties on their own social media accounts for money ahead of 2019 elections.
Many celebrities agreed to share their PAN number and banking details to receive fee but most preferred cash, which means black money, Cobrapost claimed. The media portal released a series of tweets with videos of the celebrities caught in the sting. They swore to keep the entire exercise a secret.
Several celebrities from Bollywood and television industries agreed to promote political parties on social media. In most cases, the party was the Bharatiya Janata Party while in some other cases, it was the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress, Cobrapost added.
Among the celebrities are directors, actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers.The sting operation revealed that noted playback singers Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal, actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Rakhi Sawant, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leone, comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth were willing to post favourable messages on social media for political parties.
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The few exceptions were Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and SaumyaTandon. They turned down such offers and refused to get involved. These celebrities turned down Cobrapost’s offer to promote a political party on social media.
“When we approached VidyaBalan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and SaumyaTandon with our proposition, these celebs chose to go by their conscience and straightaway refused to play ball,” Cobrapost 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.
Cobrapost claimed that its under-cover reporters approached these celebrities with a simple question: Would you be willing to promote a political party on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Almost all of the above celebrities would agree do it for a fee.
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”.
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.