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5

India Today and its sister channe Headlines Today seems to be unusually prone to "inadvertent" mistakes that surprisingly consistently look deliberate as well as designed to influence the public opinion against Aam Aadmi Party and in favor of Bharatiya Janata Party.

I am no lawyer, but mentioning several "coincidences" that seem a little unbelievable as "inadvertent". Presenting my arguments here in case anyone wants to take this ahead.

India Today published a fake defamatory article about Aam Aadmi Party by "Shanti Bhushan" - its founder

Shanti Bhushan had never written that article. It is unclear how an article echoing a popular disinformation among bjp supporters wanders onto a news website on its own and the founder of the party it defames becomes its author "inadvertently". While the artice was removed after Shanti Bhushan sent a legal notice, the pattern of fake and/or biased coverage continues.

Headlines Today Talk show defaming Somnath Bharti as the world's top spammer and dealer in porn sites

This show traces a decade old blog post about the Topsites scam - not a news organization. A blog that is about as popular as this one. So I imagine this "expose" of paid media influencing electoral outcomes should be investigated at least as vigorously as a decade old post. Looking forward to a call from India Today asking me to appear on a panel.

How reliable are Conrad Longmore exposes? This is among the top results:

mobiquant conrad longmore
Mobiquant got exposed by Conrad Longmore and has written a scathing rejoinder about his credibility as a security blogger.

The purpose of this post not being to do a hatchet job on Conrad Longmore, I simply leave it at this. When a blogger with an unverifiable credibility makes a post, and a news channel does a 3 month investigation on it, one must ask why, because there is no shortage of bloggers with allegations. Your basic tech reporter would know this, but what do you expect when a masala journalist collects a bunch of political blabbermouths and runs a 3 month long investigation based on a decade old post without realizing something as basic as there not being special domain registrars for porn domains and that the buyer buys what they want and a SOFTWARE sells it to anyone wanting a domain, and automated directory content is not created by a human? You might as well sue google for their results containing porn and ban all Google employees from contesting in elections. Or declare that spammy phone directories like Just Dial are not a respectable way of earning a living. Let me not even get started on the Bag It Today scam that happens to be an affiliate of India Today and has the dubious distinction of lowest ratings, complaints of spam, over priced sales, refusals to refund, non-delivery and more - unlike Topsites.

The show does not mention a single law in India that Somnath Bharti broke, yet has political commentators known to have a pro-bjp stand saying things like "Even if pornography were legal, it is hardly a respectable way to earn a living". That was Madhu Kishwar, in case any one is interested. It also features Vinod Kumar Binny, who has been in a permanent state of slander against Aam Aadmi Party informing authoritatively that claims made by Rahul Kanwal are true and that is how it happened. What his authority is, for certifying this is unclear. Also unclear that if he knew that porn domains were being sold by Somnath Bharti, why did he not alert authorities? The programme can only be considered biased, since last I checked, neither Madhu Kishwar not Vinod Binny know their head from their ass on internet crime, have a known anti-AAP agenda AND were invited to comment on the panel on an issue that solely deals with cyber crime. So their invitation to the panel can only be for their comments on the person and not the alleged crime - of which they seem to be as ignorant as Rahul Kanwal, perhaps more.

Somnath Bharti sold porn domains?
Somnath Bharti sold porn domains?

 

Which leaves the question of which competence of theirs qualified them to comment with any authotity on scraper directories, spam, scam or Spamhaus - which, incidentally is an anti-spam organization and service with zero legal authority or independent oversight. If a Spamhaus listing is prosecutable in India, we can prosecute a third of our elected leaders based on ADR India lists too? He is speaking of money that should show in tax returns, but there is no evidence of Somnath Bharti having got that money in the first place.

Additionally, this expose ran on their website next to a targeted advertisement for Modi, which also used the misleading acronym "CAG" - which, on clicking turns out to be a team to support Modi. This advertisement no longer runs - probably because of the model code of conduct.

modi advertisement somnath bharti slander
Narendra Modi's ad targeted to slot next to show slandering Somnath Bharti. Verified from anonymized IPs - not my cookie.

Nor was this the first time a BJP member leveled allegations at Aam Aadmi Party while being captioned as a member of Aam Aadmi Party.

BJP leaders passed off as AAP on Headlines Today
BJP leaders passed off as AAP on Headlines Today

Together, these demonstrate a pattern of deliberately presenting an impression of members of Aam Aadmi Party declaring that it is party with bad practices.

Rahul Kanwal has also consistently made false allegations against Somnath Bharti on Twitter. An example. The person replying to his comment is Conrad Longmore, who originally did the expose of Topsites, in which Somnath Bharti was a minor name.

rahul kanwal allegation somnath bharti topsites
Rahul Kanwal publicly alleged on Twitter that the registration of Topsites changed overnight after his epose, when it had been changed in 2011.

This has continued after elections were announced and Model Code of Conduct was in place. In the India Today Conclave, Rahul Kanwal anchored a discussion between Digvijay Singh, Amit Shah and Manish Sisodia where he remarks that Digvijay Singh and Manish Sisodia are sitting together opposite Amit Shah. This is another echo of BJP's accusations of AAP being a Congress ploy against bjp. Later on the same evening, when Arvind Kejriwal was answering audience questions, Rahul Kanwal brought up the Somnath Bharti "expose" again accusing him of inaction against his own party members. But Rahul Kanwal has to date never mentioned a single India law broken by Somnath Bharti - so what would the investigation be on the grounds of? TRPs?

Somnath Bharti had sent him a legal notice, which he ignored and continued his campaign of defamation. Today, he has produced a "Somnath Bharti" signature - which is not identical to his signature and is asking people to "see for themselves". While the blatant misrepresentations have been downplayed as "mistakes", and the consistent calls for naming the laws broken by Somnath Bharti are ignored, he continues to exploit the gullibility of masses who rarely examine the evidence on display and go by the confidence in claiming that it is proof of wrong doing.

There is a leaked video of "serial liar Arvind Kejriwal asking Punya Prasun Bajpai" (to use Niti Central lingo) to play up parts of the interview. This video was clearly leaked by someone at Aaj Tak, another channel from the India Today group. Their disclaimer on the leak makes no mention off how the footage was leaked or if this is professional protocol, but instead makes a point of stating that *they* broadcast the full interview. Subtext being "whatever Arvind Kejriwal may have requested". Casual conversation between interviewer and interviewed person is normal, as is normal for the person interviewed providing their view of what is important from the answers in terms of editing. I have never been interviewed on TV, but every single print publication that interviews me gets several "guidelines" from me regarding how my interview answers are used. This is because I have been misquoted in edits very often to the point where I don't do these interviews on phone and reply by email telling them strictly to copy-paste answers or not change any meaning. I also often find that something peripheral becomes a highlight and the crux of my argument gets a passing mention if at all. So I often stress that "This blah blah" is the most important from my answer. For someone like Kejriwal, who has had stray comments eclipse crucial issues in media coverage, I don't imagine this concern is wrong at all. It is his answer, and he has perfect authority to say what is the most important point in what he said - which would be the highlight of his answer. Whether channels do it or not, or leak the request rather than derail the interview, and so on is up to them.

I would like post interview footage of other political interviews by India Today group to be examined to establish whether such conversation is a unique thing that happened with Arvind Kejriwal, or if they are in the habit of such undisclosed instructions, which get leaked only for some people. The leak is clearly from within the organization and by a person with reasonable authority over footage tapes - which would be a specific number of people - I assume these aren't left lying around to be lost.

Someone was also able to edit it nicely to engineer a perception. Here is an "expose" of the "expose" by angry AAP supporters.

I also want to note the media bias over the lack of outrage over far more damning exposes by Gulail and Cobrapost that show actual crimes, as opposed to a casual conversation post a joint experience on camera. We have a media creating a perception that a comment really made being important in the interview and thus deserving highlight is a greater outrage than illegal use of state machinery for illegal surveillance of a private citizen for the personal interest of the Chief Minister. Or stings showing how Social Media can be used to manipulate Electoral outcomes. But then, for our media, fair elections seem to be a far more inferior priority than peddling their desired outcomes. We have so far seen manipulated poll surveys as well.

The bias is further enhanced through "hit and run" reporting, where stings against AAP proved to be doctored are broadcast, but not their being proved false. Where Conrad Longmore's expose is quoted, but not him mentioning that there wasn't a single case against Topsites for fraud. Where the "Nigerian raid" is reported, but not the fact of their complaints about forced prostitution and trafficking with collusion of police - which strangely were brought to their "assaulter" instead of those touchingly defending them. Yeah, Harish Salve vanished - to save other people. That is where that "outrage" went, but that was omitted from broadcast.

This clearly points to an attempt to influence electoral results by inventing and perpetrating a negative image about Aam Aadmi Party using television media and violates the right of citizens to receive accurate information through news. I do not believe that an editor does not notice if it is really Shanti Bhushan doing a submission or someone else. Or that they have no idea who they invite on talk shows or remain mysteriously unaware that the party that boycotted them didn't send anyone to participate in their show (or perhaps was not invited). I find it unbelievable that even a tamasha journalist would mistake Madhu Kishwar or Vinod Binny as experts on cyber crime.

In my view, Rahul Kanwal, and other sources of these mysterious mistakes that only "inadvertently" happen in a way that shows one party in bad light happen should be investigated for electoral fraud, and there should be a gag on Rahul Kanwal till the investigation is complete, in the interest of democratic rights of Indians. Parties should be chosen or rejected based on their deeds, not invented media campaigns.

If Rahul Kanwal is genuinely that stupid, then he shouldn't be on air anyway.

5

Vinod Kumar Binny has finally had the press conference he has been threatening for a while, and the political dynamics are fascinating in Delhi, at the moment. There had been a storm on the day Arvind Kejriwal announced his cabinet and Binny was not on it. It was hastily managed with some persuasion by Dr. Kumar Viswas and others, only to emerge now.

The flurry of allegations goes back and forth, with Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal accusing him of angling for a Lok Sabha seat, while Binny alleges that it was Kejriwal who convinced him to contest to begin with and he has not demanded any seats. Regardless of the cause, it cannot be denied that Binny's two outbursts happened on the day of selection of the cabinet and last day for filing nominations for Lok Sabha elections respectively.

As the first signs of dissent storm in the Aam Aadmi Party, the party seems to be woefully unprepared as well as defaulting to behaviors they have criticized in others. Here are key allegations made by Vinod Kumar Binny against Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party.

There is a difference in what AAP says and does

I agree. Though I don't see this as a bad thing, in the kind of differences seen. The promises were made in reckless inexperience, and the government watering them down so that most of the intent gets delivered while the rashness is removed is not necessarily against the interest of people. I understand that this will get varied reactions, but I don't think any government can (or should) deliver exactly the manifesto, even if new information during implementation shows the manifesto promises are not in public interest if delivered as is. That an elected minister will choose to put his own party to the test to deliver something to the letter rather than to best potential is a bit.... not in public interest.

Whatever AAP promised is not what they are implementing

This sounds false. AAP indeed seems to be delivering at a fast clip and along lines they had indicated in the election campaign. To hold any party accountabe for a manifesto for 5 years to be delivered in a fortnight is abusrd. Unless Binny has examples where they refused to implement what they promised, or implemented the opposite, a mere delay cannot be the basis for such a conclusion.

The water and power promise of AAP has not really been fulfilled

Agreed. While there have been dramatic and very useful actions on both fronts, some of them as promised (audits, for example), on the whole, the hyperbolic promises of free water and 50% slashed prices have not been implemented in the blanket manner they were promised. I am not certain this is a bad thing.

Referendum to ask people if they feel AAP has fulfilled its promises

Of course it will happen. It is called elections. It will happen at the end of the government's term, because that is how much time AAP has to fulfill its promises. Unless Binny expects people to judge his entire fancy speech based on his first four lines?

The government is not fulfilling the promises we made to the people

This is a bit of glass full and glass empty, because the Aam Aadmi Party has certainly been moving at a rapid clip from day one, and election promises are said to be for what they will do over five years, not fifteen days. That said, Keriwal's promise of passing the Lokpal Bill in fifteen days is doomed to be broken. And I hope it remains broken instead of shoving through some token bill to "prove" honesty.

However, considering that Binny was part of making the promises, and he believes they are not being kept, and Binny seems to think that this is enough time for them to have been delivered, one has to ask Vinod Binny why he did not deliver promises he made, just like each Aam Aadmi Party leader should be asked, when they conclude their process of delivering if promises remain unfulfilled.

Women's commando force promised but not created

I am no expert on how these things happen, but considering that Delhi police is not under Delhi government control, I imagine less than a week for force to be in action is a bit unrealistic of a timeline to expect.

Kejriwal is short tempered. Doesn't like dissent

HUGE WARNING SIGN for Aam Aadmi Party. This has come up about Arvind Kejriwal over and over, right from the days of the Janlokpal Andolan. Gets angry, talks impulsively, doesn't respect dissent. With complete respect to Kejriwal, there needs to be a procedure created so that Kejriwal's disapproval does not kill dissent in party. I imagine this is what Kejriwal would wish as well, that his stressed and knee jerk reactions do not result in damage to party democracy. There has to be a procedure that treats members with equal respect and dismissals are with debate rather than insult.

There is no internal democracy in the party. We can't talk

This is a shocking and serious allegation for a party that claims to give voice to the common man. I am inclined to believe this, in spite of him booed down by AAP supporters only after his first rebellion after not getting a cabinet seat. However, there are abundant other indicators that the processes at the top of the party are as opaque as in other parties. For example the allegations of corruption in Aam Aadmi Party, Tamil Nadu have not seen any acknowledgment or action for several months, over a problem that has existed for almost a year now. Supporter's demands for Aam Aadmi Party to become RTI compliant were repeatedly ignored. The party did eventually appoint a Punlic Information Officer, but the demands themselves went into a blackhole. There was no official reply.

Personally, I can say I have raised this repeatedly, and even wrote to their official email address several times after being advised that I would get a prompt reply through that method. I did not get any reply. Not even an autoresponder saying that the email had been received.

So no idea on whether there is a problem of "We can't talk", but the problem of party simply ignoring what is inconvenient seems fairly big. Possibly bigger than in established parties where if nothing else, you can at least get social media accounts of party leaders to make a statement.

I think as the party grows, dissent will happen. The biggest lesson from this is that the party has no real method of dealing with disagreement within other than "If anyone goes against Kejriwal, they are paid agents of someone" - at least that is what it is looking like from outside. I also realize it is early for a mature process to emerge from a new party, but there are several indications of a personality cult within the supporters of Aam Aadmi Party, which should worry any party leader interested in a robust and democratic internal system.

To me it is looking like Binny should have had enough voice within the party so that he didn't need to use media to say these things. Regardless of whether his allegations prove correct or wrong after reasonable inquiry.