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As Sonia Gandhi legitimizes Al Jazeera hitjob in parliament, Congress gives another signal of how it’s now looking towards ‘foreign ecosystem’ to save it

With its political fortunes depleting and domestic ecosystem fraying, the Congress party is now using western media outlets in its efforts to undermine the democratically elected government and foster a foreign ecosystem.

With its domestic ecosystem in shambles, Congress is looking towards leaning on its ‘foreign counterparts’ to redeem itself and yank itself out of political irrelevance. To this end, interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday cited the hit-job by Al Jazeera in the Indian parliament to target the Modi government.

Citing a report published in Al Jazeera a few days back, Gandhi urged the government to put an end to the alleged “systematic interference” of Facebook and other social media giants in India’s electoral politics.

In her Zero Hour submission in the Lok Sabha, Mrs Gandhi quoted a report published in Al Jazeera and The Reporters’ Collective claiming that Facebook had offered BJP cheaper deals for election advertisements as compared to other political parties.

“I urge the government to put an end to the systematic interference and influence of Facebook and other social media giants in the electoral politics of the world’s largest democracy. This is beyond partisan politics,” she said.

Gandhi was referring to a series of articles that were published on websites like Al Jazeera that blamed independent news entities (NEWJ) for having supposedly produced and then promoted content that projects the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Government as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party. They listed several articles to allege that Facebook is being used as a tool of influencing electoral outcomes in the country.

However, the article conveniently glosses over the usage of Facebook and other social media websites by opposition parties to expand their reach and influence the voters. The Al Jazeera article quoted research figures from a website ad.watch to allege Facebook charged BJP less for India election ads than others but it conveniently glosses over the fact that Congress actually placed more Ads (3,744) than the BJP (2,808).

Similarly, while the article said NEWSJ used exorbitant funds to run BJP-related ads, it fails to mention a single website that was involved in hosting Congress and/or other party advertisements. So, in a nutshell, the article published in Al Jazeera selectively mentioned only those instances when BJP-related advertisements were run, while expediently ignoring to mention websites that ran Congress advertisements or advertisements against the BJP.

This shoddy hit job by Al Jazeera, however, was granted legitimacy by Sonia Gandhi, who referred to the report published by them to launch fresh salvos at the BJP, following a crushing defeat in recently concluded assembly elections in 5 states. But more importantly, it underscores the evolving strategy of the Congress party—to rely and lean on foreign media organisations—to mount a propaganda blitzkrieg against the Centre.

Congress cites unsubstantianted claims made in New York Times to corner the Centre on Pegasus spyware

However, the demoralising defeat in the assembly elections is not what prompted the Congress party to warm up to the foreign media organisations and use them to salvage their dying credibility. Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, a concerted attempt is being made by Congress and its lackeys to co-opt the western media in their fight against BJP.

Earlier this year, Congress cited an unsubstantiated report published in The New York Times, which claimed that the sale of a package of sophisticated weapons and intelligence gear worth $2 billion of Pegasus spyware was a centrepiece of PM Modi’s visit to Israel in 2017. Soon after the article was published in the New York Times, the Congress lapped it up as gospel truth and launched a spirited attack against the central government.

Raising the issue in the parliament, Congress accused the government of “hijacking democracy” and treason citing a report in the New York Times that said India bought the Pegasus spyware from Israel as a part of a $2-billion deal in 2017. Congress had also called for a “privilege motion” in parliament—used in instances when members are accused of committing a breach of privilege—against information and technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw for “deliberately misleading the House”.

The use of foreign media outlets during farmers’ protests, COVID-19 outbreak in India

With its political fortunes depleting, the Congress party has not flinched from using western media outlets in their efforts to undermine the democratically elected government and policy decisions undertaken by them. The most brazen use of employing foreign media organisations to pressurise the Centre was witnessed during the farmers’ protests when the grand old party used slanted articles published in western media outlets to exert pressure on the government to revoke the three farm laws.

The propaganda campaign against farm laws also saw participation from global celebrities, most notably singer Rihanna, who posted a tweet in solidarity with the protesters demonstrating against the three farm laws. Days after she came out in support of the farmers’ protests, riots and violence swept the national capital of the country as protesters participated in a “Tractor Rally” which culminated in the siege of the iconic Red Fort.

By supporting the West’s incendiary narrative surrounding the farm laws, the Congress party was essentially trying to amplify the misguided notion that India under the Modi government was apathetic and insensitive towards the demands of the farmers. It furthered the spurious coverage of the protests by the west so that it could gain legitimacy from the public for its stand supporting the demonstrations.

It is also worth mentioning that one of the significant revelations made in the toolkit that was in circulation on social media in May 2021 and was allegedly linked to the Congress party called for the use of the international media and ‘friendly’ journalists to propagate anti-Modi propaganda. The document instructed the supporters to rope in the international media to criticise and amplify the perceived COVID-19 mismanagement by the Modi government.

This directive dovetailed perfectly with various tragedy porn articles published in the western media concerning India’s COVID-19 surge. As cases in India soared, western media outlets were replete with articles carrying pictures of burning funeral pyres from various parts of the country to underscore the severity of the pandemic. And Congress leaders and supporters spared no effort to share the morbid reports of COVID-19 casualties in India published in western media.

Links with data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica, use of bots to boost Twitter metrics of Rahul Gandhi

The Congress’ reliance on western media to prop up its failing electoral standing is, however, even older. In 2018, a whistleblower testified before the British parliament that Cambridge Analytica(CA), a controversial data analytics firm, worked extensively in India, with Congress being one of its clients.

Following his testimony, Congress was accused of hiring CA to use voters’ personal data to arrive at social and demographical fault lines and use it to strategise its poll campaign. Several shreds of evidence emerged in the wake hinting at Congress’ business links with the controversial firm.

After the Cambridge Analytica fiasco where it was alleged that user data of millions of Facebook users had been compromised and used for targeted political campaigning, Congress was also found promoting ‘Modi hatao desh bachao’ Facebook advertisement in Pakistan. Similarly, Rahul Gandhi was also reported to have taken the help of bots from Russia, Kazakhstan and Indonesia to increase metrics in his Twitter account.

As domestic ecosystem buckles under the weight of its own hypocrisy, Congress explores foreign media outlets to revive its own moribund political fortunes

The above-mentioned instances highlight the paradigm shift in Congress’ strategy of fostering an alternate ecosystem that would prevent its imminent demise. This newfound vigour to fraternise with the western media underscores a realisation among the Congress party that its nurtured ecosystem in India is gradually losing its strength as secular-liberal ‘intellectuals’ patronised by it are reduced to being insufferable hypocrites.

The reaction of the Congress ecosystem to The Kashmir Files exemplifies this phenomenon. For over 30 years, the genocide of Kashmiri Hindus was kept under wraps, thanks to the effectiveness of the Congress ecosystem. Now that people have started talking about the whitewashing of Islamism in the Valley, the ecosystem is still living in denial, grasping at the straws by accusing the movie of being “Islamophobic”.

Such a perverse line of argument is emblematic of the Congress party’s depleting popularity among the masses. The Congress party perhaps realises that their potential to influence ordinary Indian minds—an ability that made the ecosystem so strong—has been severely curtailed because of the weakened ecosystem. Stuck with sobering realisation, the Congress party is now exploring foreign media, ‘experts’ and ‘activists’ to revitalise their ecosystem.

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Jinit Jain
Jinit Jain
Writer. Learner. Cricket Enthusiast

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