Cobrapost Sting: Paytm Senior VP Claims PMO Demanded Data of Users
Cobrapost’s investigation titled ‘Operation-136 II’ purports to show that a senior vice president at Paytm said the e-wallet company had received a call from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), at a time when stone-pelting had reached its peak in the Kashmir Valley.
Though the video shows Ajay Shekhar Sharma claiming that the PMO asked for data of users, the video does not mention whether or not Paytm complied with the PMO’s alleged demand.
“We got a call personally from the PMO asking us to give them the data. They said that maybe there were Paytm users (among those they were looking for),” the video shows Sharma saying.
Paytm has released a statement, rubbishing the claims made by Cobrapost.
As part of its sting operation, Cobrapost sent their reporter Pushp Sharma to Paytm. Posing as a person who wanted to promote books like the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana on Paytm, Sharma met Sudhanshu Gupta, a vice president in the e-wallet company.
Cobrapost Reporter’s Alias
Cobrapost claims that in his meetings with Paytm officials, reporter Pushp Sharma used the name Acharya Chhatra Pal Atal. Pushp claimed that he was part of an NGO named Shrimad Bhagavad Gita Prachar Samiti, which he said is affiliated to the RSS.
In the video, he is heard telling Paytm officials that while the campaign is driven by a Hindutva agenda, he does not want any political affiliation to overtly come through in the marketing strategy, in order to avoid controversy.
The Paytm Sting
Sudhanshu Gupta, Vice President at Paytm, says that Paytm had promoted Prime Minister Modi’s book Exam Warriors by making it visible right on the homepage.
Pushp Sharma then insists that he and Gupta sit down and have a leisurely chat over his proposed campaign.
Cobrapost’s Sharma met Gupta at a later date in a Delhi restaurant, where he was introduced to Ajay Shekhar Sharma, the senior vice-president and younger brother of Paytm founder Vijay Shekar Sharma.
Right at the beginning of their conversation, Ajay makes his political affiliations clear, by stating that he is very close to several core members of the RSS.
Over the course of his conversation, Ajay also claims that the BJP victory was due to the RSS.
Ajay also constantly reiterates his relationship with the Sangh.
Citing his proximity to the Sangh, Ajay expresses disbelief about being kept in the dark regarding Pushp Sharma’s plans.
Ajay Shekhar Sharma’s Boasts of Proximity to Sangh, BJP Ministers
Ajay boasts that Union Minister for Rural Development Narendra Singh Tomar and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan know him by name and face.
As the conversation progresses, Ajay appears a little skeptical of Pushp’s proposal to promote the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana on Paytm, claiming that he will talk to the editor of RSS’s magazine Panchjanya, before taking the proposal forward.
I am friends with the editor of the Sangh magazine Panchjanya, Praful Kelkar. If you pick up the magazine, you will see Paytm ads in it. I have advertised there on his directions... I will directly talk to him about your proposal. If it is related to the RSS, then I don’t understand why I am being approached in such a roundabout manner.Ajay Shekhar Sharma, Senior Vice President of Paytm
Ajay Shekhar Sharma also adds that once he gets confirmation from the higher-ups in the RSS, he will take up Pushp Sharma’s proposal.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi responded to the sting operation by tweeting “PayTM = PayToPM.”