NEW DELHI: The BJP today questioned links between the Congress and Cambridge Analytica, a data mining firm accused of harvesting personal information from Facebook illegally to influence polls in several countries, and wondered if it will now depend on "data theft" to woo voters.
Party leader Ravi Shankar Prasad cited media reports about the opposition party's plan to use the firm's services for the next Lok Sabha elections and to boost its president Rahul Gandhi's profile.
He asked Gandhi to explain the company's role in his social media outreach.
The firm, the Union minister said, has been accused of using "sex, sleaze and fake news" to influence elections and asked if the Congress too plans to walk the same path.
"The Congress must explain if it has engaged in data trade with Cambridge Analytica," he said, questioning the opposition party's "silence" despite numerous reports of its link with the company.
Prasad, the law and IT minister, used the occasion to warn Facebook of stringent legal action against any misuse of data of more than 200 million Indians on its platform.
Targeting the Congress, he said the number of Gandhi's Twitter followers had shot up recently and wondered if it was due to the services of the firm that he achieved this "fake popularity".
"Will the Congress now depend on data manipulation and theft to woo voters?" he asked.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi asks BJP leaders to remain digitally and physically connected with the masses, he said, but the Congress seems to be depending on the digital medium to make up for its lack of connect on the ground.
It is not a question of liaison between the Congress and a data firm but about attempts to influence democratic processes which his government would not allow, he said and warned Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg against any abuse of data of Indians on its platform.