Art Of Distraction: How Left Cons The Non-Left In India, Mostly

Art Of Distraction: How Left Cons The Non-Left In India, Mostly Rakesh Tikait with farmers at a protest.
Snapshot
  • In many instances, the Left has managed to con the non-Left, and while that has not translated into any electoral success for the former, the non-Left must take lessons going forward.

Planning to take down his contemporary, the character of Bradley Cooper in the movie A-Team, a disgraced lieutenant, talks about using distraction, diversion and division.

A decade after the movie, the tactic, unknowingly, is being employed by the stakeholders and supporters of India’s Left ecosystem, an informal yet closely intertwined organisation, against India’s non-Left or the Right, or the supporters, well-wishers, and voters of the ruling party.

For India’s non-Left (as we shall address them for the length of this commentary), one of the primary objectives has been to create a narrative that favours their cause.

Subjective in nature, however, all the paths pursued in this cause culminate on the doorstep of nationalism, guided by pro-India interests minus the regressive appeasement or freebies, and in synchronisation with most of the policies of this government.

The narrative has different definitions as well. For some, it’s about the shape economic policymaking must take, say having more room for privatisation and less room for socialist policies inspired by the legacy of Nehru and Gandhis.

For some, it is on the cultural front, from ensuring the right to return for Hindus across the globe to freeing the temples, and for some, it is more about Aatmanirbharta and so forth. People have their own ideas for a narrative, but they all overlap, and eventually lead to the cause of India.

For the non-Left, the prolonged battle to establish this narrative against that of the Left has been similar to the famous battle tale of David and Goliath.

The former, synonymous with the non-Left today was without the Goliath’s armour of influence in news organisations and channels, academia, and publications, but using social media as their sling, the Davids of the non-Left took on the Left on social media across the 2010s, but today, they risk reversing this David Goliath tale of modern Indian polity.

India’s non-Left has still not been able to opt for one of the two paths — to consolidate to counter the narrative of the Left or to consolidate to create the narrative and go offensive on the Left.

For India’s non-Left, alien to the idea of influencing institutions to peddle a narrative and set their own agendas, the obvious victory has been in the first path, and this is what the Left is beginning to capitalise on.

A little over a week ago, the report of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on the post-poll violence was submitted to the Calcutta High Court.

The 50-page report documented the heinous crimes of the ruling state government in West Bengal against the supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), elaborated the role of the criminal-police-politicians nexus in the violence, documented close to 15,000 victims in 2,000 complaints after visiting close to 310 spots across the state.

The violence perpetrated in the state was brutal enough for the enquiry committee to recommend deployment of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) teams in villages, trials outside the state, special investigation teams (SITs) and teams of public prosecutors to assist the recommended Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigations, and monetary benefits for the victims.

Yet, less than 96-hours later, the report was swept under the carpet, away from the sight of publications, channels, and all other forms of media.

What should have been an elaborate discussion on legitimate documented violence against thousands and thousands of supporters of one political party by the ruling state government was instead replaced by a discussion on a report carried out by a publication that enjoys as much reputation as Arvind Kejriwal does amongst wealth generators.

Yet, it was all about an alleged (the first report of the publication, followed by many, could never confirm any hacking) spyware scandal, no one could prove or had documented or could confirm, and could only speculate about.

The non-Left was busy defending, endlessly, on social media a scandal the technocrats themselves had dismissed as a juvenile attempt to discredit the government.

This is the infamous art of distraction employed by the Left in India. Just when the non-Left has a credible issue at hand to take on the Left, the latter lights a fictitious fire elsewhere, provoking the former to arrive on the spot with their intellectual fire-brigades.

The issue at hand is forgotten, the fictitious fire gets the attention and time of the non-Left, and confusion prevails at the end on social media and consequently, amongst the supporters within the non-Left.

The media plays along too. Merely a month ago, when the news of the medical oxygen audit from Delhi came out, confirming everyone’s worst fears that the Kejriwal government had indulged in fear-mongering politics in the middle of the second wave, the art of distraction was employed.

The same day, Twitter chose to lock out India’s then former Minister of Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad out of his account. Compared to Kejriwal’s oxygen scam, Twitter’s routine and normalised insult of India’s leaders became the main news of the day, and Kejriwal and India’s Left ecosystem had a convenient escape route.

The strategy the Left has mastered today is one they have been employing since the first tenure of the Narendra Modi government.

When the government had enough reasons to celebrate the success of ushering in the goods and services tax (GST), landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh amongst other state elections after what many termed as a failed experiment with demonetisation between 2016-2017, the intolerance debate was peddled and celebrities returning awards became more than India’s biggest overhaul of its taxation system.

Against Pakistan, when the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled government was achieving success through retaliatory surgical strikes, curbed infiltrations on the Line of Control (LoC), and even the Balakot strikes close to the elections of 2019, the Left ecosystem was busy questioning the integrity of the armed forces and the government. Leaders like Kejriwal found the audacity to even defend their requests for proof of the surgical strikes.

The revoking of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir had the Left deploying the same tactics again, and with success.

The non-Left, instead of talking about the liberated communities in Jammu and Leh and the bettering economic prospects in the region were left defending the fictitious allegations against one minority in Kashmir, and Internet shutdown for law and order became a bigger issue than the 70-years worth of suppression of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Leh.

The same story played out with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in Delhi, for the one law that was made for persecuted minorities in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan became about a bunch of women illegally occupying a highway cheered on by more women from the Left ecosystem.

No one cared about the Hindu and Sikh women being kidnapped and raped in Pakistan or Bangladesh or Afghanistan, but entitled women sacrificing toddlers in Shaheen Bagh were made overnight heroes, and the non-Left fell for the trap too, forgetting what CAA was actually all about.

During farmer protests, the numbers, the economic prospects, the failed socialist agricultural system of India, and other such aspects took a backseat for the non-Left, and instead they chose to make heroes of a few scattered leaders no one had heard of. This included Rakesh Tikait and some delusional self-proclaimed saviours of Punjab sitting in Canada and the United Kingdom, most not even Indian citizens.

Another testament to the tactic is the not-so-alleged Congress toolkit that surfaced earlier this year in May. The toolkit had the Left’s agenda to shift blame to the Kumbh while being quiet on farmer protests as a super-spreader event, questioning the integrity of the PM Cares Fund to take attention away from the failures of many state governments, especially those of Delhi, Maharashtra and Kerala.

The toolkit also ordered using Gujarat’s success in the fight against Covid as a perspective to rile up other states against the BJP on the resource allocation front.

When the vaccine programme was rolled out, the lack of decentralisation was peddled to take attention away from the urgent yet well-planned rollout by the Centre, and when the decentralisation was allowed, the same Left ecosystem questioned the move of the Centre to hide their incapacity.

The same story, repeated, over and over again. The non-Left finds a serious reform or issue to deliberate on, the Left distracts, the non-Left reacts, and the reform loses its place to endless rhetoric that clouds primetime debates, news articles and publications.

The poor public memory complements the distracted non-Left and hence further aids the agenda of the Left. So, where did the non-Left of India lose its way?

Firstly, the non-Left must consolidate to create a narrative, set their own agendas for the future, float their ideas and policies, and not become expendable in disproving the fictitious fires planted by the Left.

While the lack of thought and intelligence of the Left may make disproving these agendas an irresistible temptation, beyond a point, it only is a waste of time. The consolidation must happen for the right reasons.

Two, the Davids on the non-Left must not stop looking for issues in non-issues. The non-issues can be of two kinds.

One, those settled by the government already, like the movement for Ram Mandir in Ayodhya or Article 370 in Kashmir, or two, issues that the Left themselves peddle as a distraction.

In the first case, redundant discussions and philosophical rants on issues that are successfully settled only create an air of doubt and illegitimacy against the efforts of the government, the same the Left thrives on. In the second case, it takes attention away from serious issues, like the NHRC report from Bengal.

The passionate, patriotic, well-meaning, and well-informed stakeholders, observers, and supporters within the non-Left ecosystem must now wake up to the art of distraction being employed against them, for distraction will only lead to diversion from the real issues, division amongst the forces of David, and an eventual defeat.

Like it or not, in the last few years, in many instances, the Left has managed to con the non-Left, and while that has not translated into any electoral success for the former, the non-Left must take lessons going forward, for, without introspection and course-correction, they risk making similar mistakes the Left did pre-2014.

Being David is about being smart as much as it is about being right.

Tushar Gupta is a senior sub-editor at Swarajya. 

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