A recent expose by Cobrapost claims that almost 3 dozen celebrities from the film and TV industry were willing to endorse political parties on social media platforms ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in exchange for money.

Operation Karaoke by Cobrapost had its reporters posing as employees of a fake PR agency. They approached the celebrities representing three major parties – Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

The list included names of Bollywood biggies like Vivek Oberoi, Sunny Leone, Shreyas Talpade, Sonu Sood, Ameesha Patel, Tisca Chopra, Rakhi Sawant and singers Daler Mehndi, Mika, and Baba Sehgal among others.

According to the news portal Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Soumya Tandon, and Raza Murad refused to engage in the exercise of tweeting for money.

Is this another business?

A clip from Kailash Kher’s sting on Cobrapost’s Twitter handle

Addressing a press conference, Cobrapost editor-in-chief Aniruddha Bahl said, “the sting revolves around 36 celebrities agreeing to post messages on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account to help create a favorable environment for certain political parties in the run-up to the elections.”

According to the outlet, some celebrities didn’t bat an eye before going all gaga for the proposition to defend the political parties on controversial issues like Rafale and rape.

The price range lied between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 50 lakh. Also, some went on to discuss terms for an 8 month contract for a lump sum amount of Rs 20 crore.

The sting videos available on Cobrapost’s Twitter account clearly show the reporters providing detailed information regarding their payment structure – 20% in white money and 80% in cash. Some celebs even provided their PAN and bank account numbers for the same.

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My life, My choice

Sunny Leone took to Twitter to refute the claim. She described it as part of her routine meetings with companies and went on to elaborate her entitlement to do so, being a free citizen.

Sonu Sood too released a statement calling the operation a ‘clear case of sabotage’.

The editing has been tampered with and only certain elements of the conversation have been used and projected in the wrong light, a part of the statement read.

While the constitution provides everyone with the right to freedom of speech and expression, some celebrities tend to forget their reach on social media platforms and how influential their posts might be for the budding millennials.

With great power comes great responsibility. The ideology of a celebrity bears a great effect upon their followers, who at times, tread on their heels blindly.

Indian cinemas deal, whether overtly or covertly, with the political or social issues that the country faces. It is true that anyone’s political beliefs can bring a change in the country.

However, when people absent-mindedly tend to mix their ingenuine political views with business, the responsibility that comes with being an influencer becomes adulterated and it ultimately defeats the purpose.

Celebs and their wider reach

On the onset of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had invited nine leading film personalities to join the cleanliness drive and requested each of them to draw nine more into the initiative. They included Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, Kamal Haasan, and Aamir Khan, among others.

This drew a lot of support from their fans and kick-started the campaign on a fairly good note.

My agenda here is not to label someone as guilty or innocent.

All I wish to convey is endorsements by celebrities make unpopular statements more palatable, while increasing the level of agreement with already popular opinions. So the celebs might as well be extra careful with what they propagate.

Image credits: Google Images

Source: Firstpost, PTI + others

Find the blogger @ashnavig

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