President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who is running for a third term in office, has roped in an Indian IT expert to help with his social media campaign for the January 8 elections, The Hindu has learnt.
Arvind Gupta, one of the chief architects of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s social media campaign in the general election, is among those offering assistance to the incumbent President, according to highly placed sources in Colombo. However, when contacted by The Hindu on Thursday, Mr. Gupta, who heads the BJP’s IT cell, at first said: “We are being unnecessarily dragged into this. People know that we worked for a massive victory in the Indian elections, and we have been winning election after election since.” Asked if he was confirming or denying his role, he said: “I am very disturbed by these reports and deny the same.”
A top source in the President’s office said he would not be able to confirm names of individuals involved in the campaign. “But there are some IT experts from Sri Lanka and other countries helping the President. Some are working on a voluntary basis and others, for a payment,” he said.
Mr. Gupta reportedly visited Colombo in November, and an official source in New Delhi said then that he was “perhaps advising the Sri Lankan President’s election team in his individual capacity.”
Asked at the time if he had visited Colombo, Mr. Gupta had said the country he visited was “nobody’s business”. On whether anyone in Sri Lanka had approached him for elections, he said he was “not approached by any political party or platform in Sri Lanka.”
President Rajapaksa’s social media campaign has attracted notice from online professionals. “It is sleek, sophisticated, targeted, viral and catchy,” observed Sanjana Hattotuwa, who curates Groundviews, a popular citizens’ journalism portal. “We haven't seen anything like this around an election in Sri Lanka,” he said.