Indian National Congress, the grand old party of India, suffered its worst ever electoral defeat in May 2014. Reduced to 44 seats, it was staring at a risk of being pushed to the margins if immediate corrective steps were not taken.
The reasons for its defeat were pretty obvious – corruption charges, anti-incumbency, lackadaisical leadership of Rahul Gandhi, and ‘Modi Wave’.
However, if you think like a pragmatic and seasoned politician, especially one belonging to the Congress party, these reasons don’t warrant any “corrective” steps. They are transient in nature.
For example, Congress could simply shrug them off with the following responses, and the party won’t really be wrong:
- Corruption charges: Those are over. We’ve lost the elections. Now let’s forget about it. Indian electorate too has a short memory and they will also forget about those soon.
- Anti-incumbency: That’s also over. And it won’t be there in 2019. BJP will be facing it.
- Rahul Gandhi: Really? If not a Gandhi, who? A Tharoor? LOL! Rahul Baba will improve. Let’s not lose hope.
- Modi Wave: It will subside; just a matter of time. Nothing lasts forever.
So does that mean that Congress needed to do nothing after the 2014 loss?
No! Because we are missing one thing that the party concluded as the reason for their defeat. And it was pointed out by AK Antony, who chaired a panel to analyse the reasons for the massive drubbing in the polls.
In June 2014, barely three weeks after the loss, Antony had said that Congress was seen as “pro-minority” by an average Hindu, which could be one of the reasons party suffered electoral reverses. The party’s secularism was seen as “anti-Hindu” by many.
The statement by Antony made news back then, and many Congress leaders were reported to have said that the party will evaluate it as a senior personal like Antony won’t speak anything without proper analysis.
Soon after that, in August there were reports that Congress had decided to go for an “image makeover”. The party decided to celebrate all religious festivals in their offices. Up to that time, the only religious festival they were celebrating was Iftaar during the Muslim holy month of Ramzan.
It was clear that the statement by Antony was not one-off. The party was serious about what he had pointed out and if any “corrective step” was to be taken, it was on this front.
In December same year, it was reported that party had decided to seek feedback from its cadre if it was perceived as “anti-Hindu”. A Times of India report claimed that “in around 20 meetings with Rahul Gandhi, almost every group of leaders underlined the backlash due to Congress’s pro-minority stance”.
All this while, from June to December 2014, BJP kept winning assembly elections and Congress and its allies kept losing. Among the elections the party lost to BJP was in Maharashtra, where the incumbent Congress-NCP government had declared reservations for Muslims in government jobs and education (something BJP scrapped later after). Party must have wondered if the “pro-minority” image hurt them again.
Basically in 2014, Congress knew that it had a “pro-minority” problem and it needed to find a solution.
The solution couldn’t have been stepping away from minorities. That would be suicidal. In India, “minorities” form a big chunk of voters, and one can say it without a sense of irony. Not only that, the “intellectual” support system would have also deserted the Congress.
So becoming a little less pro-minority was not at all the solution.
In essence, the problem was – an average Hindu thinking that Congress preferred minorities, especially Muslims, at the cost of welfare of Hindus. That the party was unfairly and unreasonably obsessed with minority issues.
Keywords being “unfairly” and “unreasonably”.
Bingo! That’s where the solution lied!
The party didn’t need to shed its pro-minority stand, but all it needed to do was to convince the average Hindu that its obsession with minority issues was not “unfair” and “unreasonable”.
And there you know what to do – convince the average Hindu that the minorities in India were being unfairly and unreasonably targeted. From attacks on Churches to Muslims lynched by Hindu mobs – such narrative help the Congress find the solution.
This narrative started towards end of 2014, when we started hearing about gharwapsi and later about attacks on Churches in Delhi – events that suggested that the minorities in India were being unfairly and unreasonably targeted.
Remember, gharwapsi was not any new event, as I had pointed out last year here and here; and even the attacks on Churches were all found to be either hyped or fabricated. But they helped create a narrative.
Every stray incident needed to be magnified, every loose comment needed to be mainstreamed, and every misrepresentation needed to be reinforced.
The end message – minorities were not safe, and the majority had to do something.
Essentially, the average Hindu was sent on a guilt trip.
This works almost every time and everywhere. Two years ago, we had seen how an average European, who was not too sure about taking immigrants and refugees, was convinced that every European country should take them in after the shocking picture of the dead Syrian kid sent them on a guilt trip. They, as individuals, started believing that the poor kid died as they didn’t do enough.
An average Hindu had to similarly feel personally guilty for the man who was killed in Dadri, and recently a young man who was stabbed to death near Delhi.
The narrative pushers were not even keeping it subtle; perhaps they believe that Hindus are not “sophisticated” enough like the Europeans. They openly asked Hindus to feel guilty:
A sense of guilt is very strong emotion and it can overpower other senses, especially the logical or rational ones.
Congress may nor may not be directly involved with shaping and pushing this narrative, but those who are doing so are known to be anti-Hindutva at best and Hinduphobic at worst. Their acts are aimed at political endgame, nothing else. Back in 2015, it appears to have worked as BJP was defeated in Delhi and later in Bihar that year. Church attacks and growing intolerance were the flavour of the year.
However, the narrative slipped thanks to some stupid students at JNU, who in early 2016 ended up making “nationalism” the dominant narrative by toeing the Kashmiri separatist line. It is not that the narrative pushers did not try the “guilt trip” strategy even though the narrative had unwittingly shifted. They tried to highlight incidents like pellet gun injuries and an “innocent” Kashmiri tied to an Army Jeep, but thanks to Islamist elements in Kashmir, who are more honest about their intentions than these narrative pushers, this guilt tripping did not really work, for the average Hindu knew that the Islamist stone pelters were anything but “innocent”.
However, when you push a narrative that a 16 years old young Muslim man was killed over beef rumours, that indeed is death of an innocent person. There are reports that the fight was never about beef, but over seat sharing in a train that later involved throwing religious slurs at the victim, but these details become secondary, and you are branded “demented” when you try to get into these details. (update: even the court observed that the young man was not killed for communal reasons).
Scientist and columnist Anand Ranganathan has been facing a deluge of abuse of late just because he cited some data that doesn’t support this narrative that ‘lynch mobs targeting Muslims have suddenly grown up alarmingly‘’. His twitter thread can be read here.
But this was expected. When data did not back the claim of “Church attacks”, a senior journalist had famously claimed that mahaul (mood, or narrative) was more important than data.
There is also attempt to back this narrative with data after people like Anand showed them the mirror. An article by an organisation called IndiaSpend does a “content analysis” in “English language media” to conclude that beef related violence increased alarmingly after Narendra Modi came to power.
Can’t you see the dishonesty here? The English language media controls the content and they decide what narrative to push. They happily ignored such incidents before Modi came to power (you can find plenty of them in regional language media), but started hyping and even manufacturing such incidents recently. What else are you supposed to get after analysing a content that is influenced by an agenda?
This is so awesome. First you build a fake narrative, and then you use that fake narrative as “raw data” to prove “scientifically” that your narrative is backed by data! The thievery is marvellous!
All these just indicate, quite loudly, that the attempt to send Hindus on a guilt trip has started again. Various “citizen protests” have been called to protest against lynch mobs today. The same people, who gave “political context” when lynch mobs were butchering RSS workers in Kerala and elsewhere, have now got their conscience back. They are sure that no one will call them out. After all, who can afford to not protest against lynch mobs? This is the power you enjoy when you control the narrative.
But one can not remain silent for the fear of being branded bigots and violent. This narrative has to be countered, else a partisan political propaganda will achieve its end objective. This article is one small counter.
And obviously, the Congress is happy. The party is telling the narrative pushers – keep up the good work, but not in my name, dress it up under the garb of activism and neutrality.
(the article was originally published on my blog in December 2015; this is a slightly modified copy)