Tuesday, March 21, 2023
HomeOpinionPolitically CorrectHow coronavirus helped Modi-Shah’s BJP make the transition from post-truth to pre-truth

How coronavirus helped Modi-Shah’s BJP make the transition from post-truth to pre-truth

For BJP leaders, facts no longer matter on Covid crisis, economy, jobless labourers. Whatever they say become the facts, or so they think.

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In order to become sick, you have to first come in contact with a sick person….In order to get scared, all you have to do is to come in contact with a rumour, or the television, or the internet.”

That was Laurence Fishburne playing the role of Dr Ellis Cheever, deputy director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Contagion, the 2011 film that has turned out to be so prescient about the coronavirus.

If director Steven Soderbergh were to make its sequel in India today, Dr Cheever would probably have a different take: “In order to give the coronavirus a scare, all you have to do is to come in contact with a BJP leader, on the television, or on the internet.”

Dr Cheever would have good reasons for saying so. For the BJP gives us a sense that Covid-19 is already destroyed under the sheer weight of mammoth numbers that ministers and party leaders keep touting— Rs 20 lakh crore (economic/political/psychological) package; food grains for 80 crore people; 1.25 crore migrant workers sent home safely with the Centre footing ‘80 per cent of the train fare’; 130 crore people clapping and clanging thalis to scare the virus away.

It’s only the ordinary mortals who are fretting over ‘mundane’ figures such as the death toll almost touching 10,000, daily positive cases numbering around 12,000 and still climbing, unemployment rate estimated at 23 per cent, and negative economic growth predictions. Did you hear any reference to these numbers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speeches or in the virtual rallies that the BJP top guns have been addressing to signal the return of normality? No, there were rather references to cross-border surgical strikes, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Covid-19 did find cursory mentions but that’s in the context of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong and decisive leadership. How can a virus stop the world’s largest party from doing politics?

Also read: PM Modi reviews India’s Covid situation ahead of virtual meet with chief ministers

BJP’s move from post-truth to pre-truth politics

“India has succeeded in stopping the spread of corona to a great extent due to the lockdown at the right time,” wrote Union home minister Amit Shah in a newspaper article on 30 May to celebrate Narendra Modi government’s six years in office.

That’s the testament of pre-truth politics. If you simply Google ‘pre-truth’, it tells you that it’s ‘a lie that will eventually come true’. It’s more complex because truth can be subjective, especially in politics. Let me explain through an imagined conversation between two government functionaries, called M and S for convenience.

M: Yeh media wale migrant labourers par bahut shor macha rahe hain! How did you fail to anticipate this migrant problem? They are dying on roads and rail tracks! Sarkar ki badnami ho rahi hai.

S: Sahib, the lockdown announced must be enforced strictly, come what may. That’s what makes a leader strong and decisive. Anyway, I have asked Naddaji to give them chappals to walk on the roads, and soaps to take a shower when they check into hotels/motels for the night.

M: But these labourers could say we were insensitive towards them!

S: They will forget about it soon. What has Rahul Gandhi given them?

(In a TV interview in the first week of June)

TV anchor: Sir, if you don’t mind, can I ask why the opposition parties are playing politics over labourers?

S: Yes, it’s unfortunate. The opposition parties are so insensitive. They are weakening our fight against coronavirus by diverting the people’s attention with propaganda. We kept migrant labourers in the cities for their own safety. We provided them with food and other comforts of life in cities until we ramped up health infrastructure in their home states. We then transported 1.25 crore of them home, bearing 80 per cent of the expenditures. Our government is committed to the poor and the downtrodden.

That’s pre-truth politics for you.

Now, let me explain post-truth, which is simpler, because the Oxford dictionaries triggered a debate over it by making it the international word of the year in 2016. The dictionaries defined post-truth as circumstances where emotions and personal beliefs, and “not facts” — or rebuttals — influence public opinion.

Let’s look at the reports about the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) showing unemployment rate at 45-year-high in 2017-18. This data never got legitimacy because the government chose not to release it before the Lok Sabha elections.

Just talk about the 70 lakh people getting ‘skilled’ and employed under programmes run by Modi government’s skill development and entrepreneurship ministry. The priority of the minister in charge, Mahendra Nath Pandey, is to try to visit the PM’s constituency, Varanasi, every weekend on one pretext or the other. Try to get details — names and places of those 70 lakh skilled and employed —  and you can spend your lifetime on it. Most of them don’t exist outside the government’s records. Now that’s the post-truth of Modi’s first term in office, which has become pre-truth in his second term as the BJP touts the millions of jobs created under the Skill India programme.

Understand the pre-truth politics the next time you hear about the $5-trillion economy, which Modi, Shah and their colleagues in the government and the party keep harping on, no matter what you, I, or those international credit rating agencies may think. BJP leaders ridicule anyone seeking clarity about the Chinese intrusions in Ladakh. Defence minister Rajnath Singh declares that what he has to say he will say inside Parliament. It’s another matter that the next session of Parliament is unlikely to be held until August, if at all, given the need for social distancing by parliamentarians. All that Singh is ready to share with the people is that India is not a weak country anymore. So, just feel proud about it and don’t ask questions.

Also read: Divided by a virus — why the pandemic makes it look like nobody is in control in India

Importance of Modi-Shah’s pre-truth politics

When you hear Amit Shah nowadays, you realise how Covid positive or death figures are meaningless. Shah never talks about it. It’s immaterial. Read the 100-page special issue of Kamal Sandesh, the BJP mouthpiece, on “One Year of Modi Government 2.0”. The fact that ‘Modi’ figured 467 times and ‘atmanirbhar bharat’ 85 times in the document was only expected. What came as a surprise were hitherto unknown stories of how India has developed in the past six years, beating even our former colonial masters in developing health infrastructure. Under Vande Bharat Mission, Air India brought 50 “expecting mothers” in one flight from London to Hyderabad on 11 May. “Due to prevailing pandemic situation in London, the gynaecologists are not examining pregnant ladies. This is something, which compelled them to return to India,” stated Kamal Sandesh. Thank goodness British Prime Minister Boris Johnson could get a gynaecologist for his fiancée who gave birth to a baby boy in a London hospital in the middle of the pandemic in April.

Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi brought out a new dimension to the recent Delhi communal riots in this document: “It is notable that before the recent Delhi riots, there was a message in circulation during Shaheen Bagh protests, which said, ‘Modi claims…his regime has not witnessed a single riot, we will demolish his pride’.”

If you don’t agree with him or to his conclusions, he has several names for you in the same article: “Modi Phobia Club”, “Modi Bashing Club”, “India Bashing Brigade”, “Gumrahi Gang (Misinformation Gang)”, “Bogus Bashing Brigade”, “Consortium of Conspiracies”, “pseudo-secular syndicate”, “Cyber Conspirators”, “Horror Hate Hubbub”, and whatnot.

When you see even a sensible leader like Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi resorting to this, you can’t blame yourself for getting lost between pre-truth and post-truth in Indian politics today.

Also read: As Covid goes out of hand, Modi goes back to yoga, acronyms and nationalism

Pre-truth about Modi’s politics against opposition-ruled states

On Monday and Tuesday, you will hear our Prime Minister talk about the need for the Centre-state collaboration again in his meeting with the chief ministers. Modi didn’t consult them before declaring the lockdown. But the states must take the responsibility — and the blame — now that the pandemic refuses to go away.

As for Modi’s responsibility, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) was quick to declare the result of an antibodies survey, proving that “the lockdown was successful”. That was the success of the Modi government’s fight against coronavirus in the BJP’s pre-truth politics. The states must now be taken to task for failing to contain its spread. That’s why you see Amit Shah, who was responsible for the labourers’ crisis and confusing guidelines, offering all help to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal after Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal had thoroughly exposed the Aam Aadmi Party government’s failures. Remember how the central teams, whose stinging letters about Mamata Banerjee government’s Covid mismanagement first reached TV studios, had nothing negative to say about the mismanagement by the BJP’s chief ministers in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

The Centre was quick to indict Telangana government for low testing but has remained quiet about the same in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh.

But these are all irrelevant facts in pre-truth politics in which Modi government must get the credit for the stringent nationwide lockdown, howsoever unplanned, and the states, especially the opposition-ruled, the blame for the fallout of unlocking.

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  1. Democracy pre-supposes the existence of an electorate that holds politicians accountable for their actions and digs beyond the empty rhetoric and baseless propaganda . That does not happen in India and there is a pathetic hero worship of politicians. And cunning politicians like Modi know how to ride this wave and exploit a populace that wants to be cheated.

    As Nazi propaganda Minister Josef Göbbels observed:

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State”

    Applies to Modi’s India.

    • so true. the thing about lies is that they can be held up to the truth. lies v/s lies is not the fight here – it is lies v/s truth. that is in fact the battle we are fighting – not RW v/s LW, not bjp v/s congress, not fascists v/s human rights defenders … the good fight we have to fight to today is LIES v/s TRUTH.
      I challenge all readers and commenters – even the paid trolls – start by telling the truth at least to yourselves.

  2. Very true sir. Indeed the national motto needs to be changed from “satyamev jayate” to “mithya-sagar me doob jao”

  3. Well written article and the truth about the BJP/Modi led government. Modi will go down as the worst Prime Minister in the world.

  4. While Modi, Shah know how to make best of every situation, Modi haters like this DK repeatedly fail and can’t even learn from failures. Why Modi wins and Modi haters loose!. It’s simple. Modi stands by the people and tirelessly works for people’s aspirations. But Modi haters are lazy, whatever time they spend, they invent lies, fabricate data, fake stories and create conspiracies. Non Modi haters can easily make it out whom to trust and whom not to trust.

    • Mr When you pontificated:

      “.. Modi stands by the people and tirelessly works for people’s aspirations. ..”

      were you dealing in facts or merely regurgitating the propaganda emanating from the BJP & the PM ? After all, on every indicator of development e.g. poverty levels, inflation, employment, inequality, FDI, agricultural distress, capital flight and so on, the country is in a much worse state than before PM Modi took office. Add to this the destruction of the informal economy through demonetisation and the crippling of small industries and businesses through GST you would realise that the obituary of the Indian economy is slowly being written. Not that bhakths like you are capable of reading it.

      On the foreign affairs front, things are even worse. The rampant, virulent and violent Islamophobia that is the hallmark of Hindutva and the BJP has now created problems with India’s Islamic trading partners in the Middle East. Amit Shah’s ir-responsible speech in Parliament on 5th Aug 2019 in connection with the status changes in Kashmir also had a part where he bombastically claimed that India would recover POK & Chinese held Aksai Chin. This speech, particularly about recovery of Aksai Chin was clearly for a domestic audience but that rattled China no end. The current stand-off has to be seen in that light.

      Bottomline: Hindutva, 56 inch chest, scapegoating Muslims, constructing a Patel statue or running the BJP IT cell etc. do not lead to development. And crafting domestic policy to keep the Hindu jingoists happy has adverse effects on foreign fronts.

  5. I think it is you who is trying to create a false image “pre-Truth” ‘Post Truth” what ever you want to call it.

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