Indeed, some of them are paid.
Mr Narendra Modi, using taxpayer money, employs a company named APCO overtly for managing the Vibrant Gujarat campaign. See:
- Mechanics of Narendra Modi’s PR agency : APCO Worldwide – Orchestrating our Future,
- The Modi Machine: Makeover gurus (Edit: fixed broken link).
APCO has been employed by dictators and lobbyists previously. As discussed in the article 2., it is unclear whether APCO officials double up as Modi’s spokespersons, or perform other functions as well, but it is plausible that APCO has been a key contributor to Modi’s propaganda. To be fair, APCO has denied working for Vibrant Gujarat campaign now, and for Modi at any time: Apco Worldwide denies working for Narendra Modi.
Personally, my experience with commenting on various news sites in India has been interesting in one aspect: while on Firstpost (FP) almost all comments are pro-Modi, in general views are much more diverse on other news sites. Why is this so? There is no rational explanation, other than the possibility that FP’s comment section is rigged either with or without co-operation of moderators there. This issue has been researched in depth by fellow commentators; see: Trollfest. I have personally experienced the official FPEditors handle make one-line, slanderous, anti-anti-Modi comments on more than one occasions. Does FP also employ APCO (or some other pro-Modi PR firm) for “moderation”?
Use of PR firms would have been acceptable to an extent if there were transparency in BJP’s funding. However, since about 80% of BJP’s funds come from “unknown sources”, what corporate deals are baked behind the scenes is totally unclear. The problem of “paid news” is connected; under our laws, “paid news” is a minor offence and our toothless election commission cannot take strong action against paid news. Read more about paid news here: The Shocking Reality About Paid News And How The Media Is Silently Letting It Run [Part 2] | Youth Ki Awaaz.
In short, paid news and Crony capitalism are made for each other. The following steps are involved:
- Corporates fund politicians.
- Politicians fund media with corporate money.
- Paid media help client politicians get elected.
- Elected politicians favor corporates that funded them (2G, coalgate, etc.).
- Go to 1.
Some people have the view that all parties have PR firms that act similarly. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Most parties have an IT Cell. However, a few parties support RTI for political parties and transparency of funding; BJP is not one of them. Some parties do not take funds from corporates but only from individuals, thus they are less vulnerable to fall prey to crony capitalism; they do not spend more than the expense limits defined by EC; is BJP one of them? No, even their own MPs say so (refer: the Youth ki Awaz article above).
Living under decades of mis-rule, such people do not find anything wrong with paid campaigners. How about paid audience? Or, even if they find paid campaigners or paid audience wrong, they have the false belief that every party is doing it!
“Paid news” is the biggest problem facing humanity and such statements claiming “everyone is doing it” is a thorough travesty to those who have taken the courageous, right path.
Here are a few FAKE pics prepared by BJP fans or workers. Whether these are paid workers or not is anyone’s guess, but BJP would do best to take steps to reign in on them, including the FB/Twitter accounts that post them.
Here are some “sponsored links”:
More coming soon …