In Cobrapost’s latest, dozens of Bollywood celebrities have been caught on record agreeing to post political propaganda on their social media handles in exchange of money. This new revelation comes just months ahead of the 2019 General Elections and it names some of the biggest B-town celebrities.
Cobrapost in its extensive sting operation has given out the names of over three dozen celebrities which include prominent singers, actors like Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Ameesha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani, Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leone among others.
What is Operation Karaoke?
The exposé termed as ‘Operation Karaoke’ also contains names of comedians like Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek among others. However, the investigative platform mentioned that four celebrities- Arshad Warsi, Vidya Balan, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon- when approached by Cobrapost’s undercover celebrities refused to take part in the exercise of misleading their fans in exchange for some quick cash.
All these celebrities are media powerhouses in their own right since most of their fan base runs into lakhs. Last year, Cobrapost did a similar investigative report of large media houses, most of whom agreed to run pro-Hindutva contents for a hefty price. Cobrapost said that their undercover reporters approached these celebrities through their managers. The reporters posed as employees of public relations firm which represented the BJP, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.
According to The Wire, they asked the celebrities if they were willing to promote a political party discreetly on their own social media handles. Reportedly, Cobrapost made it clear that this was not a part of a party’s official campaign but just a back door policy. Cobrapost chief Aniruddh Bahal said that almost all the celebrities agreed to do it for a fee which ranged between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh for a post. To show their readiness, some of the celebrities even posted messages without being paid.
Moreover, Cobrapost claims that most of the celebrities asked for cash and some even quoted a fee of Rs 20 crore in exchange for an eight-month contract. Cobrapost said that some celebrities were even ready to tweak the content to make it look authentic and, “sign a dummy contract for endorsement of products to disguise the real nature of the proxy political campaigning,” reported The Wire.
For example, a Cobrapost video of singer Abhijeet shows him suggesting that the issue of talaq be linked to the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. The same video even shows him saying that he won’t criticise West Bengal and the TMC government.
Many television personalities and actors exclusively wished to be paid only in cash so as to avoid tax liability. Reportedly, Actor Mahima Chaudhary asked for Rs 1 crore while stating that the BJP can afford anything. Actor Vivek Oberoi who will be next seen in Prime Minister Modi’s biopic insisted that his tweets will have a ‘ripple effect’ owing to a large number of followers.
While four celebrities did decide to take the high road, the most recent investigation only exposes the backchannels which still exists in the country and most prominently in the media entertainment industry. It is appalling to see these much-adored celebrities mislead their fans and spew false propaganda in exchange for cash. What’s scarier is the fact that most of them demanded cash which paves the way for an open discussion on black money in India.
Also Read: Caught On Camera Asking Money To Peddle Hindutva; Cobrapost Exposes The Newspapers You Read