Conducting an investigation dubbed Operation Karaoke, news investigation website, Cobrapost, carried out a series of sting operation among some popular names in Bollywood industry and alleged that they were willing to endorse political parties. Around 30 Bollywood celebrities including actors, singers, directors and comedians were exposed to take money from the team who posed as a PR agency and consented to promote political narratives of particular parties on social media by “posting favourable messages on their social media accounts to help create a buzz” ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The fee was alleged to be accepted in “cash, which means black money.”
The celebrities who discreetly agreed for the promotions included: actors Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leone; playback singers Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal; comedians Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar; and choreographer Ganesh Acharya and dancer Sambhavana Seth.
Cobrapost, on Tuesday, released the sting operation which was carried last year over a period of 3-4 months and the celebrities were caught on camera accepting the cash-for-tweet offer. The portal’s reporters approached the celebs and asked them a simple question, “Would you be willing to promote a political party discreetly on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram?” to which almost all of the above celebs said that they will do it for a fee. As per the report released by Cobrapost, in most cases, the party was the Bharatiya Janata Party while in others case, it was the Aam Aadmi Party or the Congress. While some celebrities were even willing to sign a dummy contract for endorsement of products in order to disguise the real contract, some others allegedly swore to keep the same hidden as the fee for the same ranged from Rs. 2 lakhs to Rs. 50 lakhs per message.
The report said, “Mahima Chaudhary, for instance, demanded Rs. 1 crore for a single message. “BJP toh kuchh bhi de sakti hai. They can give one crore a month (The BJP can give you anything. They can give 1 crore a month),” she said. [..] Not satisfied with the fee we would put on his table, [Sonu] Sood demanded Rs. 2.50 crore a month.”
Vivek Oberoi agreed to settle for Rs 80 lakh per month while bad boy of Bollywood, actor Shakti Kapoor, who went to town praising demonetisation, an avowed aim of which was to curtail black money, demanded a fee of Rs 9 crore for 9 months.
The report said, “Operation Karaoke again reminds us nothing has changed in the entertainment industry with all these celebs willing to accept a big component of their fee in cash, even some wondering if they could be paid all in cash. Minissha Lamba, for example, wanted her fee to be paid entirely in cash. She was disappointed when she came to know at least 20 percent of her fee would be paid in white. “Lekin aapne mujhe bola tha ki saara cash hoga (But you had told me payment will be made entirely in cash),” she wondered. Like her, Aman Verma also wanted only cash. “I would love all in cash,” he said. Bollywood bad guy Shakti Kapoor, who went to town praising demonetisation, an avowed aim of which was to curtail black money, had the gumption to blurt, “Number one mein daalo mat (Don’t pay in number one).” Pankaj Dheer, another BJP acolyte, had this to say on cash, “I am very comfortable because in cheque I am burdened till here.” ”
Cobrapost, however, pointed out that some celebrities like Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon refused to promote any political party as they “chose to go by their conscience.”