Two strategies are deployed to deal with the enemy. The Make-Them-Into-Us approach is about buying out the loyalty of the opponents with inducements to catalyze the rapid mutation of the anti-establishment stance into a pro-establishment stance. In case that fails, the Take-Them-Out-Of-The-Equation approach is pressed into service. It involves a combination of tactics to harass, torment and coerce the opponent into throwing the towel.
The campaign to eliminate all resistance usually begins with disinformation followed by a smear campaign and finally ends with spinning a web of legal tangles around the opponent.
The sudden emergence of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as a national force during the elections, its avowed declaration to change the system inside-out and its cantankerous actions in shaking up the status-quo has clearly rattled the establishment. Hence Stage One of the ‘sully them, smear them, screw them’ is in operation. In case you haven’t noticed, the disinformation campaign is in full swing.
Backing the campaign are leading media houses owned by business barons, the twitter armies of political parties that believe in the status quo, the full force of the UPA government and all arms of the saffron brotherhood.
Since the leadership of AAP hasn’t committed a 1.76 lakh crore scam or presided over a riot that killed 1044 people, finding large acts of moral turpitude is a problem. So the establishment decided to dig up hundreds of micro, tiny, and small acts of ‘indiscretion’ that portray AAP in an unflattering light. The idea is to blow up these minor instances into major failings by giving it prime time coverage on national television, box-item treatment in newspapers and headline-material on news sites.
The allegations invariably start as a series of tweets by an anonymous BJP sympathiser. It is religiously re-tweeted by paid and unpaid members of the NaMo brigade with suitably offensive hash tags like #Fakeriwal, #CIAagents and #AAPwedsAajtak. Then, right wing opinion makers, columnists and NitiCentral jump into the fray. By now, the hash tag would have started trending as a significant chunk of 3.51 million followers of @NarendraModi have commented about it. The so called ‘neutral’ news sites follow through by asking a columnist to do a hack job. These news sites are conveniently owned by TV channels, which then do a ‘breaking news’ on the story. Seeing the news, many on Facebook share it as a status update with a suitable one-liner reflecting their political sympathies. And the establishment somehow gets a former AAP member to issue a statement endorsing the allegation. Now that it’s become a controversy, politicians of all hues make snide remarks about the issue. The Average Joe watching TV or reading news naturally gets affected and disillusion spreads. This is how a tangential news item (which would otherwise not even be on anyone’s list of priorities) becomes a ‘scam’, ‘fraud’, and ‘crime’.
Let’s study some of the muck that has been thrown at AAP so far:
“AAP IS RUN BY CIA AGENTS”
Logic: Ford Foundation is a CIA-front organisation. It has made substantial contributions to Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia’s NGO. Beneficiaries include Yogendra Yadav and Mallika Sarabhai. Ford Foundation only backs those who further the CIA agenda. Hence AAP is full of CIA agents.
Observation: Ford Foundation has also made significant donations to IITs and IIMs. An organisation named Gujarat Ecological Educational & Research (GEER) has been a beneficiary too. Who is the chairman of GEER? Shri Narendra Modi! Does that make him a CIA agent?
“AAP IS FULL OF NAXALS”
Logic: Prashant Bhushan questions the need for security forces deployment in Naxal areas. Naxalite sympathisers like Binayak Sen are a part of AAP’s decision making bodies. Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda has been given a ticket to contest elections in Orissa on behalf of AAP.
Observation: Just because 3 or 5 members of your party have extreme-left leaning views, does it give anyone the right to brand an entire party as urban Maoists? Just because Nathuram Godse was a former member of RSS, does it make the Sangh Parivar a bunch of Gandhi-killers?
“AAP GETS MYSTERY FUNDS FROM ABROAD”
Logic: There have been very many newspaper articles on how NRIs have been contributing generously to the AAP campaign. A new spin on this was introduced and several trolls started raising questions on funding from foreign firms. The Union Home Minister promptly ordered an enquiry into the issue of foreign funding.
Observation: AAP is the only party that’s totally transparent about online funding. They have a separate page on their website that lists out the daily donor list. The list is updated on a real time basis. Who donated from where and how much is clearly detailed out. Ironically, BJP and Congress have shown zero inclination to be transparent about their sources of funds. Predictably, no one’s cared to investigate them.
“SOMNATH BHARTI HEADED A SPAM COMPANY”
Logic: Somnath Bharti is cited on the world wide web to be one of Top 3 spammers from India. It’s improper to have a spammer as the law minister when AAP talks of high standards.
Observation: There’s some truth to the allegation. AAP should have probed the matter, studied the evidence and dropped Somnath if he were guilty. For some reason, they took an ostrich-like posture on the issue. But it does look like they’ve learnt a lesson now. Somnath Bharti is no longer given prominence in party affairs in Delhi.
“ARVIND KEJRIWAL IS A PLAGIARIST”
Logic: A Noida based writer Ajay Pal Singh has filed a case against Arvind Kejriwal for lifting content from his book around March 2012 to publish ‘Swaraj’ in June 2012. Many pro-BJP tweeters took up the cause.BJP publication Pioneer even carried the article.
Observation: In an interview to Reader’s Digest in September 2011, Arvind Kejriwal talks about having written a book called Swaraj. Obviously, he didn't hit upon the idea in March 2012 after leafing through Ajay Pal Singh’s book. The saffron army is possibly aware of this fact. Which is why, they’ve let sleeping dogs lie. Else, they would have raised hell.
“ARVIND KEJRIWAL HASN'T VACATED HIS GOVERNMENT BUNGALOW”
Logic: Despite the PWD sending him a notice to vacate his quarters, Arvind the man who claims to be tha paragon of integrity has chosen to stay put. This is shameful.
Observation: In an interview with NDTV, Arvind had mentioned that his daughter’s exams is holding him back and he’s trying for the building to be alloted in his wife’s name as she’s entitled for the same. Perhaps, Arvind could have handled the issue better by issuing a public clarification on when he’ll vacate. The absence of a clarification has given his critics a handle for needless controversy.
“ARVIND KEJRIWAL FIXES HIS INTERVIEWS”
Logic: In a widely circulated off-the-record interview clip, Arvind Kejriwal is urging Punya Prasun Vajpayee of Aaj Tak to avoid a few questions and play up select portions of the interview. Hence he’s a fake leader with no scruples.
Observation: Selective leaks of off-the-record conversations from a program in a channel is evidence that this is a hit job. It’s normal for most politicians to sex up interviews when they’re dealing with friendly journalists. Caravan Magazine recently carried a story on how Vivian Fernandes went to interview Narendra Modi. He had to submit the questions before hand. When a tricky question found its way into the interview, Narendra Modi is said to have quipped: “Why is he talking like this? Have we not paid for this interview” At least with Arvind, he just avoided a question. In NaMo’s case, a whole interview was paid for!
“AAP IS SYNONYMOUS WITH U-TURNS”
Logic: A series of apparently contradictory decisions is cited as proof for AAP’s zigging and zagging. Decisions like: AAP fought elections saying they’ll never have anything to do with Congress but formed a government in Delhi with their support; Arvind Kejriwal said he’ll never enter politics at one point, but now he’s in it for power; AAP said they’ll file FIR against Sheila Dixit within 7 days of coming to power this didn’t happen; AAP said they’re against lal batti culture but their MLAs use government cars; Arvind Kejriwal railed against politicians traveling by private planes but he didn’t have any qualms in traveling by a chartered plane owned by Religare recently; AAP has always named corruption as its no.1 problem but recently the party put communalism ahead of corruption.
Observation: If you analyse each of the charges individually you’ll realize how ingenious the BJP wallahs have been in jumping to a pre-meditated conclusion.
a) Let’s take the AAP’s ‘no truck with congress’ statement. AAP has been pretty vociferous about not allying with the Congress before elections or forming a government with Congress, post elections. AAP stood by both statements. It reduced the Congress to a single-digit show in the elections and post elections it never asked for Congress support. To prevent a BJP government from being formed and to call AAP’s bluff on governance, the Congress on its own volition offered outside support. While in power, AAP did everything to make life difficult for Congress. So how could anyone accuse AAP of a u-turn?
b) On the ‘will never enter politics’ statement. You’ve got to be flexible with your ideas because you never know what life throws at you. When the Jan Lok Pal bill was stonewalled by poiticos, Team Arvind had very few options. They had to bite the bullet if the Jan Lok Pal had to see the light of the day. Entering politics was a strategic call in tune with the times. If that was a u-turn, then BJP’s decision to not raise the Ram Temple issue during the current elections is a u-turn as well.
c) Yes, AAP wasn’t able to file an FIR against Sheila Dixit in 7 days. But they did manage to order an FIR against her in 40 days. Perhaps they underestimated the task but that can’t be classified as a ‘u-turn’.
d) The AAP government was the first to do-away with the lal-batti. But they never promised that their ministers will shun government cars. A clever interpretation of the promise gave BJP a chance to shaft AAP citing a ‘u-turn’.
e) On the private plane issue, between 2003-2007 Narendra Modi spent over Rs. 16 crores taking 100 flights of which only 10% were on government planes. Corporate houses like Essar, Adani, and Reliance provide these planes for free. Nobody knows why. Arvind Kejriwal raised doubts about the quid pro quo. When Arvind took a chartered plane (sponsor: Religare) to attend the India Today Conclave, the pro-BJP press sniggered saying ‘how could he?’ What the BJP folks didn’t tell you was in Arvind’s case, he was flying in an all-expense-paid trip to attend an India Today event. Can a common man not fly? Didn't Mahatma Gandhi travel by cars owned by businessmen to attend key meetings? The point to note here is at least we know what Arvind used his plane for. Do we know why Narendra Modi used the services of planes from Essar, Adani and Reliance over and over, when he had the option of using government planes as Chief Minister of Gujarat? We still haven’t got an answer.
f) Lastly, on the topic of choosing to fight Communalism over Corruption. Everyone who’s been tracking AAP knows their firm resolve to fight corruption. At a meeting with muslims, while addressing their concerns, Arvind underlined the point that for besieged minorities, communalism is a bigger worry than corruption in India. NaMo bhakts took the statement out of context and made it out as if AAP had jettisoned the corruption plank. The fact of the matter is AAP is the only party that has consisently exposed corruption in high places in both Congress and the BJP. The voter cannot be hoodwinked into thinking any other way.
To sum up, the establishment would love it if AAP could somehow be eliminated from the picture. To achieve this goal, a no holds barred an-allegation-a-day carnival is on. Sadly, some have managed to create doubts in the minds of the middle class. Hopefully, the truth will find a way to scream out to the open minded.