Misinformation, disinformation and outright lies form the staple diet of fake and false narratives. These have, in turn, become the weapon of choice for some of our political parties, otherwise bankrupt of a mission and national purpose. Regrettably, some in our intelligentsia and media participate, perhaps out of choice, only to discover that “a lie can travel half way around the world while truth is tying its shoelaces”. Fortunately, truth does get running and ultimately triumphs.
Why do some sections of the media participate in these narratives? Why do pollsters get it so wrong? The elections in Bihar are a testament to the fact that the silent majority prefers development-oriented governance. The National Democratic Alliance’s win, despite 15 years of incumbency, is also a testament to their unwavering trust in Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. The resounding victory of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the by-polls is also a reaffirmation of the faith of the people in the PM.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s Sardar Ayaz Sadiq’s recently recounted how Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was perspiring and his “legs were shaking” when foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, during a meeting, that if Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was not released, India would attack Pakistan “at 9 PM”. This has destroyed the false narrative created by many leaders in the Indian Opposition. Some politicians questioned the strike and suggested that this was a ploy to win votes. They questioned the valour and professionalism of our armed forces and cast aspersions on the intentions and achievements of the Union government in times of a grave crisis. The people rejected their politics and punished them.
The allegation by the leader of an Opposition party that Indian democracy is being “hollowed out” reflects the deep sense of insecurity and frustration felt by a clique which ruled the nation for decades without any accountability. Even though this party couldn’t even touch three figures in the two Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and 2019 elections put together, it leads the narrative on all nationally divisive issues. Before 2014, New Delhi was symptomatic of a culture of “family connections”, power brokers and middlemen, who along with senior politicians were running their independent fiefdoms with impunity. Institutions, including even that of the PM’s Office, were often reduced to a rubber stamp, subject to the extra-constitutional body of “activists” in a so-called National Advisory Council.
The selective outrage of some of these activists who were caught receiving funds illegally from abroad is not difficult to comprehend. Their partisan interests must not be confused with the legitimate interests of civil society or the Indian people. But to portray legal actions on these vested interests as an attack on civil liberties is pure humbug, specially coming from a party which has a rich history of suspending civil liberties. The Emergency in 1975 is a case in point. They imposed President’s Rule to summarily remove elected state governments over 75 times when they were in power and politicised enforcement agencies to such an extent that the Supreme Court had to refer to the Central Bureau of Investigation during their time as a “caged parrot”. Even today, their governance in Maharashtra appears rooted in the brute use of State institutions to attack freedom of the press and speech and further narrow political ends.
Since 2014, the PM has transformed the working culture in the government with zero tolerance of corruption, and cut down of delays and bureaucratic inertia. To present his courage and his impatience with the debilitating status quo as an attack on Indian democracy is both cynical and dishonest.
In case of the farm bills, which only implemented long-pending reforms which were part of their own election manifestoes, the Opposition chose to mislead the farmers by spreading fear and canards while 33 out of their 107 members were not even present in the Upper House when the bills were being debated and voted upon. They suggested that the Minimum Support Price procurement will be stopped. But in fact, the paddy procurement is up at a national level by over 20% from last year and over ₹3,8000 crore have already been transferred to our farmers. In case of Punjab, the procurement is up from last year by over 26%; we have already exceeded this year’s target by 8%; and over ₹29,000 crore have been paid to our farmers.
In the case of China, they surrendered India’s position and are now alleging falsehood of surrender. Whether it is the farm bill or the Goods and Services Tax or the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, all these measures were initiated during the time of the Congress government, but it did not have the gumption to implement these painstaking reforms.
Instead of a debate on real issues, unbridled hatred for PM Modi seems to be the cornerstone of Congress politics. The Opposition should step out of the mindset of weaving false narratives, treating different sections of the society as mere vote banks and wake up to an era where every Indian regardless of religion, caste, creed or gender is an equal partner in the nation’s progress. A robust and vibrant democracy also requires an Opposition which is truthful and sincere. It is high time that the Opposition steps up.
Hardeep Singh Puri is a Union minister
The views expressed are personal