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Prashant Kishor’s team starts reaching out to media and influencers with ‘paid content’ offers ahead of West Bengal assembly elections

OpIndia reached out to one of the people directly involved in campaigning from IPAC to ask him about their plans on social media for TMC during the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections. When asked about the email, the IPAC executive sounded confused and attempting to shield TMC.

Leading news and opinion portal from Darjeeling thedarjeelingchronicle.com, which supports the formation of Gorkhaland as a separate state has published a report with a sensational claim. Backed with screenshots of communication from political strategist Prashant Kishor led IPAC, Darjeeling Chronicle has exposed how IPAC is reaching out to ‘influencers’ on social media and digital portals to carry out paid campaigning for TMC and Mamata Banerjee ahead of 2021 West Bengal state elections.

The portal claims that a few weeks after the news of Prashant Kishor led IPAC working with TMC for the upcoming West Bengal state elections became public, Darjeeling Chronicles got an email from a member of the IPAC team. The first email was from one Nikita Chatterjee.

Email from Nikita Chaterjee (source: Darjeeling Chronicle)

The email says:

“Hello Sir/ Madam,

Hope you are doing well!

We are reaching you through a Well-known Political Agency.

We are aiming to participate and make a meaningful contribution to political affairs and governance of the country, without necessarily being inclined to any political party. We integrated with so many political parties across the Country to make successful democracy and achieved tremendous victory in all the footsteps followed. We are heads up to work for a popular political party of West Bengal.

We completely appreciate the consistency and standards of your Facebook group. I hope you people will grant us access to reach your group members to make them understand the Political pride of West Bengal. We are completely prepared to aware of the west Bengal peoples what to consider for their state development. The country knows West Bengal as a generous state. The state with superabundant famous personalities of the World. Let’s make the state more established together.

Our team will be happy if you accept and revert on our e-mail.

Thanks,

Nikita” [sic]

The email clearly states that the paid promotion is for West Bengal and was from a ‘well-known political agency’. Logical reasoning dictates that the email was from a member of IPAC working for TMC and Mamata Banerjee ahead of Assembly elections.

Today, however, Darjeeling Chronicle claims that they got a second email from one Avesh Singh. The email address mentioned in the communication is avesh.sigh@indianpac.com which appears to be an official email address of someone working with Prashant Kishor’s IPAC.

The report on Darjeeling Chronicle says the content of his email is similar to what Nikita had sent, only this time it was sent in poster form, and this time around there is specific mention that they are going to PAY for their contents to be shared through our platform.

The report also says that attached with this email was an infographic where monetary benefits in exchange for participation was mentioned.

IPAC email (source: Darjeeling Chronicle)

The poster that was emailed to the Darjeeling Chronicle clearly states the following:

1. They would want Darjeeling Chronicle to “helping followers get more awareness about the politics of THEIR state”.

2. IPAC reached out to Darjeeling Chronicle as it is playing a “vital role in the upcoming West Bengal Elections”.

3. Monetary benefits: The flyer mentions, “we will also give monetary benefits in two variants. You will get paid for sharing our content and also, merchandise directly from THE PARTY”.

4. Opportunity to work closely with THE PARTY and get a position in the party.

Darjeeling Chronicle ends its report by saying:

However we have this counteroffer to make to IPAC and through them to Mr. Prasant Kishor – get Mamata Banerjee to come out openly in support of Gorkhaland statehood – our entire team will volunteer for you and TMC for free.

Till then, please do know OUR PAGE IS NOT FOR SALE.

OpIndia reached out to one of the people directly involved in campaigning from IPAC to ask him about their plans on social media for TMC during the upcoming West Bengal assembly elections. When asked about the email, the IPAC executive sounded confused and attempting to shield TMC.

The executive of IPAC, who wishes to stay anonymous said that this email was not regarding TMC at all and IPAC was, in general, trying to build an ecosystem of influencers who would help in political campaigning. When questioned that since the email pertains to West Bengal elections and since IPAC has already teamed up with TMC for the West Bengal elections, would it not mean that IPAC was contacting digital portals and influencers for paid promotion of TMC, the executive strangely said that the ‘party was not decided yet’.

The correspondent, to prod further, asked that if “the party was not decided yet”, would it mean that Prashant Kishor led IPAC was willing to collaborate with parties other than TMC for the upcoming West Bengal elections. To that, the executive confirmed that it would not be possible for IPAC to collaborate with other political parties since it has already collaborated with TMC.

If one notices, in the email sent by Avesh to Darjeeling Chronicle, it clearly mentions that the promotional offer is for West Bengal Assembly Elections, however, it smartly covers its tracks by saying that they wish to supply content that would help Darjeeling Chronicle readers ‘choose their leader’ wisely. Later it says that the promoters would also get monetary benefits and position in the political party.

Since the email concerned West Bengal elections and the IPAC executive, despite his best efforts confirmed that Prashant Kishor led IPAC was working exclusively with TMC in West Bengal, it stands to reason that the promotion offer was for content favourable to TMC and Mamata Banerjee.

While reaching out to influencers is normal for political lobbyists and agencies including for brand promotion, it is interesting that even a digital portal was approached for paid promotions. One certainly does wonder how much of the political content in the run-up to West Bengal Assembly elections would be paid for when in favour of Mamata Banerjee led TMC.

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Nupur J Sharma
Editor, OpIndia.com since October 2017

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