In a damning sting operation conducted by the investigative website Cobrapost, 36 Bollywood stars with considerable clout on social media are shown in compromising positions where they agree to put out politically-charged social media posts designed to sway public opinion in exchange for cash.
Called ‘Operation Karaoke’, these stars have been caught on video agreeing to utilise their social media accounts to influence public opinion by posting politically-charged messages supporting a particular political party.
Their orchestrated tweets would be dressed up as their opinion in the run up to the general elections in India in May.
The damning evidence against the Bollywood stars also include videos where stars are shown haggling and negotiating the distasteful deal.
Celebrities who agreed to be a part of this unsavory deal include former adult star Sunny Leone, Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Mika Singh and Rakhi Sawant. Collectively, these stars have millions of followers among them.
At the outset, the stars were told that they are not a part of an official political campaign, but were part of a shady tactic that relied on doing things on the sly.
Cobrapost’s proxy PR agency even gave the celebrities a lowdown on what areas their engineered posts would touch upon and the nature of the propaganda they would eventually support.
“The investigation was made to expose the celebs willing to endorse a political agenda in return for monetary gains,” Cobrapost spokesperson said.
Actors like Sonu Sood, whose credits include blockbusters like ‘Simmba’ and ‘Dabangg’, allegedly demanded Rs200 million (Dh10.27 million) for an eight-month contract.
All the actors — caught in the sting operation — wanted ready cash for tax evasion purposes.
Leone allegedly says that she would support the BJP if her husband Daniel Weber was given Indian citizenship in return.
Sunil Pal apparently gave the undercover reporters a live demonstration of how he would mock Congress’ Rahul Gandhi on his comedy shows.
Vivek Oberoi, who is filming for a biopic on Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was shown in his vanity van, speaking about creating a “ripple effect” by posting a certain brand of messages on social media.
Cobrapost also claimed that actor Ameesha Patel allegedly wanted payment before she posts any of the messages on her social media. She was clear that the promised money should reach her bank account, before she posted any politically-charged messages for Cobrapost’s proxy PR.
Controversy magnet Rakhi Sawant also allegedly boasted that she’s familiar with this process as she has been propositioned by other political figures in the past.
While majority of the stars who were propositioned agreed to the shady deals, Cobrapost claims National Award-winning actress Vidya Balan and Raza Mura turned down their deal.
The full list of Indian celebrities embroiled in the expose:
Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer
Hiten Tejwani and his wife Gauri Pradhan
Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar
Choreographer Ganesh Acharya