This article highlights a relatively recent problem that is visible in the social media space. We start this article by discussing a case study:
A case study – Bangalore Model and Two Twitter Trends
A concerted social media campaign was launched during few state elections and the initial phases of general elections-2019. Some features of this campaign were: first, The target group was the right of the center, young and urban BJP voter. Second, The primary strategy was – “To confuse Urban Hindus.” This strategy targeted solid and committed BJP voters and demoralized them by saying – kya fayada, BJP ne Hinduon ke liye kya kiya?? (What is the point of voting for BJP? What have they done for Hindus?). Third, the strategy was to show BJP as mild, indecisive, and not strongly pro-Hindu. Fourth, the long-run idea was to get a wafer-thin BJP majority in the general elections-2019. The state elections were used as a dress rehearsal for this long-run plan. Then negotiations would be held to keep Modi-Shah out and give way to more amenable old-timers.
As an outcome of these ideations, the #NOTA campaign and #NoRamMandirNoVote Twitter trends were launched. These efforts did bring in some “desired” results. In the Karnataka assembly elections, on many urban seats (Bangalore being a case in point), the hardliner Hindu youths stayed at home due to disillusionment. In Bangalore, assembly seats were lost by wafer-thin margins. The internal analysis of BJP revealed that many BJP voters had pressed #NOTA or stayed at home. Result: BJP was the largest party but could not form government at the state at that time.
This ‘successful’ outcome emboldened the conspirators, and in the informal discussions, this experiment was called the “Bangalore Model.” This exercise was repeated in the 2019 general elections (more than one top BJP leaders were aware and involved). However, in 2019, after the initial phase, this campaign was abandoned after their own members leaked these designs. Two factors led to the abandonment of this campaign – first was that dissent had cropped up in their ranks and files; second, after these efforts were leaked, BJP and RSS leaders lobbied and requested on a personal basis to stop such activities.
Efforts to Confuse the Hindu Vote – Within Right Wing
The Left-liberals discomfort with the Modi-Shah duo has been well documented and need not be repeated here. The left-liberal lobby is clear that the RSS-BJP combine, led by the Modi-Shah dispensation, is the “Pradhan Mall” (Main wrestler). They organize various political and communication strategies to discredit the leadership duo as well as the RSS-BJP combine.
However, the Modi-Shah duo (and the RSS-BJP) also face a hidden challenge. Not many (even within BJP and RSS) are happy with the centralized decision-making approach. It is also not surprising that many of the old-timers of BJP are also discontented and quietly waiting for times to change.
This article, however, focuses on a specific space:– the non-BJP/ RSS Right Wing (RW) Voice. While we discuss this space, we are mindful that this is not a uniform space, and individuals and organizations in this space are motivated by various issues.
The scope of this article is to focus on specific RW voices (whom we will call Trojan Right Wings – TRWs) that operate in this space. TRWs are those social media voices that, while pretending to be on the RW side, actually are harming the Hindu cause. These TRWs look for opportunities to bad-mouth and demean the established RSS-BJP combine regularly.
Who or What is a Trojan RW (TRW)?
At this juncture, it is essential to address the question –Who is a Trojan RW (TRW)?
Does anyone who criticizes Modi/ Shah or BJP/ RSS immediately become a TRW?
The answer lies in the intention as well as in the frequency of actions. Specific examples will illustrate this point:
For example, when a prominent RW voice stuck her neck out and spoke against the induction of corrupt MLAs into Goa BJP – it was an isolated incident. Her criticism was on a specific issue and was not intended to malign the entire BJP/RSS leadership. Further, after raising this issue, she refrained from any public criticism of BJP or RSS. Such an activist will not be included in the category of TRW.
To take another example, a recent venture floated by two prominent RW voices is the new TRW. These two voices, while working independently of each other, established their pro-RW credentials. They then came together, started a new venture, and steadily started attacking BJP and RSS. They even went to the extent of fabricating a story of the renewal of Indo-Pak ties. They are careful not to target BJP-RSS too directly, but every alternate video of theirs demeans or derides BJP-RSS combine. To complement their videos, they post short articles demeaning “Bhakts” and declaring that their allegiance is to the Hindu cause and not to Modi.
Then there are few RW commentators that criticize the Modi/ RSS government but mention that BJP-RSS is still the best bet for them as an organized political force.
Moving beyond specific cases, let us now identify the conditions that lead us to place a TRW. As a thumb rule, the TRWs can be identified by their persistent attacks on Modi and Shah. They will post some articles or videos deriding anti-Hindu voices, but a recurring motif in their videos is – Modi government is not doing enough for Hindus. Please note that opposition to Modi and Shah is necessary but not a sufficient condition to become a TRW. The second condition is linked to the recurrence or the frequency of attacks.
Finally, the TRW is characterized by the fact that they will NEVER speak about the positives done by the Modi government. They will conveniently sidestep any discussion on the civilizational issues resolved by the Modi government.
Why is the Trojan Right Wing (TRW) dangerous
In a discussion on industrial-organizational behaviors, Cortina et al. (2001) assert that although toxic behaviors and incidents appear to be relatively minor, these persistent abrasive behaviors leave a lasting impression on the victim and “impair psychosomatic wellbeing.” Lazarus & Folkman (1984) point out that persistent abrasive events “have greater pathogenic potential than once-in-a-while dramatic events.”
This article has been written to emphasize that it is essential first to recognize the damage being done by the TRWs. The next step should be to counter this narrative by exposing their intentions. The actions by TRWs might seem small or trivial, but they constantly play a drumbeat – “BJP is no good. Modi wants to win Nobel Prize. Maulana Modi.” These seemingly small but persistent attacks have their effect, and people get disillusioned.
Let us recall what happens in a Naxal attack. The Naxals blow a bridge or a road or kill a police contingent. The primary outcome of this action of Naxals is an increased mistrust of the government. It is perhaps surprising that public opinion is not so much against the Naxals but the government.
Let us take a recent example. In the systematic post-poll attack on BJP workers in West Bengal, the anger was not so much on Trinamool cadres but the central government. The TRW group had a field day in highlighting the ineffectiveness of the BJP government. There were cartoons, poems, and memes. Let us now reflect on what these achieved?
Detailed discussion – why TRWs are so dangerous
Repeated surveys have shown that many Hindus have a deep personal connection with the prime minister. They recognize him as a leader who wears his ideology on his sleeve and is an unabashed Hindu. His work ethic, deep commitment, selflessness, and incorruptibility resonate with them. Even while acknowledging occasional slips, a large section of Modi supporters still believes that the intentions of the PM are right, and he is there to serve the Dharma and the Rashtra.
By their persistent negative campaign, the TRWs dilute the emotional connection of the ardent Hindus with the Prime Minister.
A Hindi proverb explains this succinctly:
रस्सी आवत-जात ते, सिल पर परत निसान
(When water is drawn from the well continuously, the rope leaves a mark on stone)
The RW audience will not believe a discredited media personality (say the Madison rowdy) or an opposition leader (say Pappu) if they criticize the PM. But since “hardliner” Hindu voices criticize the PM, many persons listen to and believe them. Therefore, these TRWs are dangerous because they demotivate the already convinced Hindus. Posing as hardliner leaders, they muddle and confuse those Hindus who have taken years to get convinced. That falsehood is most dangerous that closely resembles the truth. The fact that these Adharmics project themselves as “Hindu voices” makes them extremely dangerous.
We have seen what happened in the US elections. Due to the covid crisis and sustained media campaign, Trump supporters were disillusioned and demoralized. Many were convinced that the problem is with him. Result: The loyal Trump voters did not come out in as many numbers to vote in 2020 as they did in 2016.
The first section of this article shows how a concerted effort was made to confuse and demoralize Bangalore Hindu voters. We also discussed that efforts were made to deliberately affect the 2019 general elections so that an amenable BJP leadership replaces the Modi-Shah combine.
If these TRWs are allowed to continue unabated, the Hindu voters will be demoralized and demotivated. As it is, urban Hindus need a reason not to vote. They are already a confused lot. If the committed and convinced Hindus also develop doubts about the leadership’s efficacy, then Hindus are sure to lose the electoral battle. By the way, the opposing forces, due to their institutionalized religious framework, are always united.
Hindus have to realize that they cannot afford to be divided and lose political power. A favorable political establishment is required to make any significant change (political, judicial, educational, or cultural). BJP-RSS combine under Modi-Shah leadership came across with a clear realpolitik approach and shed the naiveite of the Vajpayee era. For now, Hindus do not have any substitute for the current strategic BJP leadership and the well-oiled political machinery such as RSS.
How do Trojan RWs (TRWs) establish their credibility?
The TRWs establish their credibility by being ultra-vocal on Hindu issues and downplaying the long-pending achievements. The recent targeted killings of BJP workers in West Bengal hurt the sentiments of all Pro-Modi voters, and the TRW group gained a lot of credibility by demeaning BJP, RSS, Modi, and Shah for not showing enough spine.
Many TRWs gain significant goodwill by filing court cases on Hindu issues and by harvesting the same crop. The fact that some of these cases are deliberately kept lingering is never highlighted.
At times fake news and fabricated posts are also used to discredit the Modi-Shah duo. We pointed out that a recently launched portal claimed that the Indian government plans to renew cricketing and trade ties with Pakistan. Finally, this “news” was quietly buried after an official denial by Pakistan. But the damage was done. Many hardline Hindus were upset and disillusioned that the Modi government is going to repeat the Vajpayee mistake. Modi’s image as a strong leader was given a slight jolt. Job accomplished.
We need to recognize and appreciate the political awareness of Abrahamics. They fully understand token statements and are never affected by them. Anti-Hindu forces keep quiet on Rahul Gandhi’s temple visits. Similarly, in Delhi, AAP’s minority support group was silent on Kejriwal’s Hanuman mandir and Sundarkand path.
Let us now contrast this behavior with Hindus – so-called hardliners and “strategic” voices. These TRWs highlight – “ek haath mein Quraan, ek haath mein computer” statement at the drop of a hat. Prime Minister was even called Maulana Modi by some of them. They pompously announce that BJP won’t get even one minority vote – as if BJP/RSS leaders are naïve. They will make it virtually impossible to cause any divide in the Muslim vote.
The grandstand of Trojan RWs (TRWs)
Any person who requests these TRW groups not to divide the already confused Hindu is derided and hounded. They claim that their commitment is towards the nation and Dharma and not towards Modi. The fact that their actions are weakening the only available and organized political option in front of Hindus is conveniently side-lined. Their grand-stand is then supported by the well-meaning but muddled Hindus who do not see the bigger picture.
Why do TRWs behave the way they do?
The TRWs have studied the BJP-RSS and ABVP setup. They have realized that in the RSS-affiliated organizations, seniority, as well as the full-time commitment, is valued and recognized. For many senior RSS leaders, political power is not the end in itself. In this setup, very few outsiders have been accommodated in the power structure (Power is what TRWs want. They have no interest in Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram or Ekal Vidyalaya or any other seva activity). Therefore, their ambition and impatience lead them to work against the BJP / RSS system. Their frustrations arise out of their inner conflicts. Many of them genuinely dislike Pappu and the past “congress” culture. However, the ambition of the modern age and, to some extent, their belief – that they would be better than present ministers or officials if given a chance – turns them against BJP and RSS.
The second reason is financial. The aggressive posturing of these TRWs for Hindu causes results in increased revenues through YouTube or Facebook. Therefore they continue to raise these issues. People have heard enough bashing of Rajdeep or Left-liberals, and so they now turn their guns towards BJP and RSS and paradoxically attract hardliner Hindus.
Establishing the Litmus Test – Who are the main targets of Abrahamics?
Since the Hindus are a confused lot, they would do well to make a decision on the main Hindu force after taking the Abrahamic Litmus Test. Abrahamics are goal-oriented and have institutionalized systems that send out clear messages.
The Litmus test is: Notice the target of attacks of Abhrahamics. Suppose the Abrahamics persistently and viciously attack a person A. In such a case, Hindus should be nearly confident that that person A is affecting the Abrahamic system in a big way. For example, world-over Abrahamics (and liberal media) will always deride Modi-Shah and Yogi Adityanath.
On the other hand, the TRWs will always fail in this litmus test: The Abrahamics never target them. This can be due to various reasons – the TRWs are too insignificant, they can be easily compromised, or they are doing a good work of damaging the Hindu cause.
Striking a balance – Criticize internally
It is said about Jews – 4 Jews, 5 opinions. They are no less argumentative. However, while addressing an external audience, they come together. When he was in opposition, Shimon Perez was frequently invited by the western media, and Perez (a Labor Party President) defended the Government (Led by Likud) on those forums. Can Hindus learn something from the ex-Israeli PM?
In his article – The Importance of Protecting Our Gurus, prominent RW voice Rajiv Malhotra urges Hindus to “stop being internally divisive.” He conveys his disappointment at the Hindu tendency of not standing for one another.
The Hindu samskara welcomes opposing views and varied viewpoints. There was no conception of blasphemy in Bharat, and different schools of thought, including Atheism, co-existed in this tradition. I remember in a public talk, someone had made a point – why no Buddha ever evolved in Arabia? Why did Buddha, Mahavir, Nanak evolve in this land? By their inherent nature, Hindus accept diverse opinions and debates.
However, in this case, Hindus cannot afford to get distracted and confused, and therefore such discussions must be within closed forums with a mature audience. On open platforms, it is important to present a united front.
Ghar Wapasi of the Trojan RW
As we conclude this discussion, we need to reflect upon winning back the Trojan RWs. Some pertinent questions would be: Which TRWs to be brought back? Which ones to be ignored? Which ones to be exposed? What should be the mechanisms to win the TRWs?
The first three questions require going into specifics, which would be beyond this article’s scope. We hope that there is some serious discussion on this issue with the BJP/RSS think tank.
We attempt to give some pointers on mechanisms to win back the TRWs. First, RSS-BJP should introspect on recognizing and rewarding lateral entries. There are persons outside RSS and BJP that feel for their tradition, and their services should be utilized. Second, some RW commentators who indulge in BJP/RSS bashing might not intend to harm the Hindu cause. They might not be aware of the damage that they are causing. It is important to contact these individuals and ask them for course correction. Third, some RW commentators who indulge in BJP/RSS bashing might be looking for short-term financial benefits. Since these voices have personal initiative and creativity, they can be supported and nurtured strategically. Their help can be sought for more effective and innovative media campaigns. Finally, BJP/RSS have to recognize that Egos are high. Hell hath no fury than a Hindu activist that is scorned.
Can BJP / RSS do a course correction?
The success of the TRW campaign leads to one inescapable conclusion: BJP/ RSS needs to protect their core vote bank. As a ruling dispensation, BJP cannot be blatantly parochial, but they need to address the concerns of Hindus more effectively. For example, the Bengal post-poll violence left many Hindus disappointed. Some visible action by the top leadership is required in such cases. Similarly, the nuisance of the Farmer’s protest should now be handled with a firm hand. Visible actions enhance trust levels as well as emotional connect with the leadership. We have already highlighted that the primary purpose of the TRW campaign is to dampen the emotional connection with the Prime Minister. BJP needs to reinforce the trust of its core vote bank.
To conclude, it is crucial for the BJP/RSS think tank to notice and counter the TRWs. The BJP communications team has to send out two clear messages – first, hardline Hindu social media warriors are required but not at the cost of an organized political force. Second, the RSS, with its committed workforce, is always a better bet than an isolated so-called hardline Hindutva upstart. Hindus, on their part, should build internal pressure but always realize that in the present situation, Hindus do not have any substitute for the current strategic BJP leadership and the well-oiled political machinery such as RSS.
Cortina, L. M., Magley, V. J., Williams, J. H., & Langhout, R. D. (2001). Incivility in the workplace: incidence and impact. Journal of occupational health psychology, 6(1), 64.
Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. Springer publishing company.
-By Anupam Kumar