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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Congress toolkit reflects low Rahul politics

Sweden’s mentally disturbed 19-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg rang in the silly season of anti-Bharat toolkits four months ago to help make the long running farmer agitation more effective and globally relevant. The toolkit was a collaborative effort of pro-Khalistan elements abroad and Thunberg’s desi counterparts and backers like Disha Ravi.  

The Indian National Congress — if it at all can be called Indian, much less Bharatiya — quickly realized the immediate and long-term benefits of toolkits. The government’s discomfiture over its failure to come to grips with the second covid wave was a perfect time to hammer out a pre-programmed line of political action to damn, defame, and pull down the Modi regime.  

The document released by the BJP on May 18 was seemingly printed on the letterhead of the “AICC Research Department”. The latter’s head, Rajeev Gowda, was quick to dismiss the six-pager as a piece of forgery and its contents false and fabricated. Did he have an option? Caught unawares he acted fast and neutralized the BJP’s efforts to get social media mileage.  

Tweets on the toolkit from BJP leaders were marked “manipulated media”. Twitter’s skullduggery was on expected lines, but the BJP ought to have foreseen it and warned its managers that any attempt at shadow banning or otherwise would invite consequences.   

Thunberg’s unedited electronic document which preceded the pandemic stipulated sharing solidarity photos and video messages by January 25 to make the planned R-Day protests more successful, generate a “tweet storm” on January 23, hold protests near Indian embassies, government offices, media houses, and corporates like Ambani and Adani.  

That the plan of action laid out in the toolkit was substantially followed if not to the last letter confirmed that the R-Day violence was premeditated and part of a larger conspiracy. Disrupting Bharat’s yoga and chai image was also among the objectives which even the prime minister averred to in one of his speeches. 

Cut to the alleged Congress toolkit. Flashing the victim card with a faux show of self-righteousness when caught with their pants down has been part and parcel of the party’s pernicious politics. It is ever ready to throw its weight behind Break Bharat forces both inside and outside the country so long as it serves its narrative.  

Probing the authenticity of the alleged toolkit is therefore a waste of time because it can neither be proved nor disproved. People will believe what they wish depending on where their loyalties lie.  

Which is why the police complaint filed at a Delhi police station or the FIR lodged at Raipur in Congress ruled Chhatisgarh against BJP leaders, including the party president J P Nadda who first tweeted about it, is not worth the paper written on. 

The more important question is this: could the minority appeasing Antonia Maino led Congress have authored the toolkit given the party’s Janus-faced stand in matters of national security coupled with the eagerness to parley with Chinese and Pakistani agencies without taking the government into confidence? The answer is an unqualified ‘yes’.  

Public perception that Maino’s Congress has a dodgy record when it comes to protecting the Hindu interest is the main reason why its strength in the lower House was slashed to that of a regional outfit in two successive polls. The view will persist till the party realizes that Nehru’s descendants are a liability, and the sooner they call it a day the better. 

Those genuinely confused about the toolkit’s authorship need to look no further than March 2018 when the Congress’ links with the British poll management consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA) began to unravel. The revelations were a fallout of the Facebook data breach, the biggest ever, in which personal details of tens and thousands were acquired by the company to build voter profiles of American voters.  

To this day the Congress has not accepted that it had indeed used the British firm’s services to improve its electoral fortunes. This, despite the deposition of a former employee turned whistleblower, Christopher Wylie, before a parliamentary committee of the House of Commons. Wylie told the body that the company had worked extensively in Bharat, and that he believed CA was employed by the Congress to influence elections in the country.  

“They worked extensively in India. They have an office in India…I believe their client was Congress,” he deposed, even offering to provide the documentation to prove his contentions.  

Now consider the actual text and theme of the toolkit, “Cornering Narendra Modi and BJP on Covid”. Nothing betrays the Congress hand than the fact that every stratagem mentioned has indeed been used for the last several weeks. The party’s social media stars like Shashi Tharoor have been playing up every facet of the “tar Modi” campaign.  

Politicizing the Kumbh Mela as a super Covid spreader in collaboration with leading journalists in the western media, flashing images of mass cremations and corpses floating on the banks of the Ganges topped the action plan. This was necessary to further the narrative that Hindu interests were given primacy over health concerns. 

Mobilizing retired bureaucrats to raise doubts over the proper use of the PM Cares fund; calling into question the special attention given to Gujarat; slamming the astronomical expense over the Centra Vista complex at a time when death stalked the country were the other key elements of the toolkit.  

Congress leaders have repeatedly stigmatized Central Vista as a “vanity project” and Modi’s personal residence. The purpose: push the message that the PM is using tax-payers money for self-glorification.  

The document goads volunteers to employ suitable phraseology to belittle the PM and his cabinet as a bunch of good-for-nothings. Nomenclatures are hurled as a pin-pricking tool.  

The Indian mutant of Covid is called the ‘Modi Strain’; the home minister is referred to as ‘Missing Amit Shah’ given his unusual reluctance to get tough with the nation’s enemies post-CAA and deactivation of Article 370; the foreign minister is nicknamed ‘Quarantined Jaishankar’ given the PMO’s long shadow over his ministry; ditto ‘Sidelined Rajnath’, his counterpart in defense; not to speak of ‘Insensitive Nirmala’. 

Last but not the least the document counsels “mobilizing creative like-minded people in Bollywood for tweets, memes, comic videos, cartoons and other viral posts that target Modi.”  

Ex-Chhatisgarh CM Raman Singh and the BJP’s loquacious national spokesperson Sambit Patra who released the toolkit to the media were spot on in asserting that flattering Rahul Gandhi was as much the goal of Gowda and his research team as rubbishing Modi’s repute.  

The document reflects the shahzada’s brand of politics. Tearing into Modi’s popularity with low blows must have left him pleased as punch in private. That none of this is likely to cut any ice with voters in future elections is something the Congress has still not realized. 

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Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh
Sudhir Kumar Singh is an independent journalist who has worked in senior editorial positions in the Times Of India, Asian Age, Pioneer, and the Statesman. Also a sometime stage and film actor who has worked with iconic directors like Satyajit Ray and Tapan Sinha.


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