In the last leg of Gujarat elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his lieutenants have hurled a series of extremely grave, innuendo-filled allegations against Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh, allegations which in fact border on the seditious.
The masters of half-baked insinuations from the BJP camp, including party president Amit Shah, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy and a horde of spokespersons known for their predilection towards fake news, have raised fingers at the former prime minister not over the once-routine issue of corruption, but this time of colluding with Pakistan over Gujarat polls and making Ahmad Patel, Congress' Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, the party's Muslim chief minister, in case it wins.
The same Mani Shankar Aiyar, who insulted Gujarat, held secret meetings with Pakistan High Commissioner. What was the reason? Why are people who previously held high posts in military-intelligence establishment of Pak writing that we should help make Ahmed Patel the CM?: PM Modi pic.twitter.com/lc9G57NlKI— ANI (@ANI) December 10, 2017
The same Mani Shankar Aiyar, who insulted Gujarat, held secret meetings with Pakistan High Commissioner. What was the reason? Why are people who previously held high posts in military-intelligence establishment of Pakistan writing that we should help make Ahmed Patel the CM: PM— narendramodi_in (@narendramodi_in) December 10, 2017
In the past few speeches, Modi has questioned why a particular "secret meeting" - but with heavy police duty that too in a known location - was held at now ousted Congress' leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's residence on December 6, just one day before the infamous "neech" remark, which he twisted and turned into political capital within minutes. As reported by The Indian Express, the said meeting was attended by not just Manmohan Singh, but by former vice-president Hamid Ansari, a former chief of the Indian armed forces, Deepak Kapoor who was the 23rd COAS, as well as by three former Indian high commissioners to Pakistan and other diplomats who have handled the western neighbour for years to further track-II consular relations.
So basically the Prime Minister of India has accused a former VP, a former PM, an ex Army Chief, and former Indian envoys to Pakistan and other senior diplomats of conspiring against him in the Gujarat election.— Nidhi Razdan (@Nidhi) December 11, 2017
People, this is serious. This is an extraordinary accusation to come from a prime minister against an MP. If Modi can't or won't substantiate it the PM's office will have lost a great deal of credibility. Right now, it looks like Trump-level ranting https://t.co/rSav4wnXG3— Mihir Sharma (@mihirssharma) December 10, 2017
The meeting, along with a dinner, was organised to mark the visit of former Pakistan foreign affairs minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, who was in Delhi to attend a wedding and a conference on India-Pakistan relations, and had absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing Gujarat elections.
Toeing the same line, today, December 11, in Vadodara, PM Modi questioned why former PM Singh "didn't show courage to order surgical strikes post 26/11 Mumbai attacks". Modi asked "under whose advice did (Singh) do so", while contrasting the post-Uri attack response with the surgical strikes during the early hours of September 29, 2016.
This is a very, very ugly piece of campaigning in India. "Under whose advice" did Manmohan Singh refuse to bomb Pakistan in 2008, Modi asks? Not much short of an accusation of outright treason against a former PM. https://t.co/kGsDgBZI7d pic.twitter.com/jqtN26nblx— Stanley Pignal (@spignal) December 11, 2017
The insinuations have not been limited to PM Modi alone, as Union ministers like Ravi Shankar Prasad and BJP national president Amit Shah too have echoed the latest conspiracy theory. In fact, both the Pakistan foreign office as well as the Opposition in the Congress party have called the PM out on this, citing the dent this kind of unsubstantiated and extremely sensitive allegation makes on the credibility of the PM's office.
Pakistan's Envoy, Former PM Manmohan Singh and Former VP Hamid Ansari had a meeting with Mani Shankar Aiyar. Right before Gujarat election, without informing MEA conducting a meeting with Pak envoy... I don't know what message does it convey: Amit Shah in Gandhinagar pic.twitter.com/DemZFvE7KY— ANI (@ANI) December 10, 2017
Completely abhor outside interference in India's internal affairs. Pakistan's promotion of terrorism in India is well known but Pakistan must stop giving us lessons, we are proud of our democracy. Condemn this unwarranted statement: Union Min RS Prasad on tweet by Pak MoFA Spox pic.twitter.com/Xgu5E8t7iH— ANI (@ANI) December 11, 2017
India should stop dragging Pakistan into its electoral debate and win victories on own strength rather than fabricated conspiracies, which are utterly baseless and irresponsible.— Dr Mohammad Faisal (@ForeignOfficePk) December 11, 2017
PM has said Congress is conspiring with Pakistan for Gujarat elections.Its outrageous. This is just an attempt to polarize ahead of second phase of voting.This also shows his desperation and that BJP's loss is now guaranteed: Anand Sharma,Congress pic.twitter.com/1Ax2qxDzvN— ANI (@ANI) December 11, 2017
Ex-Pakistan Foreign Minister was here to attend a wedding, there was a dinner organized for him in which there were former diplomats,former Army chief among other dignitaries.Does PM think they were all conspiring with Pak? Reprehensible.PM must apologize: Anand Sharma,Congress pic.twitter.com/K07MwkwhFE— ANI (@ANI) December 11, 2017
FACT-Dr.Manmohan Singh never once visited Pakistan in 10 years as PM 2004-14 & probably never did before. He came to India as a child refugee post Partition.However Prime Minister Modi did & got PATHANKOT terror attack in return & invited JIT consisting of ISI to investigate it..— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 10, 2017
Lowering of political discourse
The crassness displayed by the ruling political party and the incumbent in Gujarat Assembly for 22 years during the election campaign is frankly both unprecedented, as well as typical of its Hindutva bandwagon. From BJP casting aspersions on Congress president-elect Rahul Gandhi's religion, saying he's not a Hindu, to Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath saying Gandhi didn't know how to sit for puja at Somanth temple from offering namaz, to the PM frankly asking his Gujarat electorate whether it wants a mandir or a masjid, to now the insinuations against former prime minister Manmohan Singh, former vice-president Ansari, the ex-diplomats and the former chief of armed forces - that they were all colluding with Pakistan to alter Gujarat election results in favour of a potential Muslim chief minister - this is BJP without its mask of "vikas".
With the Gujarat model now exposed as mere economic majoritarianism that has now run its course, and with Gujarat as Modi's Hindutva lab for years now, it's evident that the party is fielding its most successful weapon of mass distraction with the PM himself resorting to outright misinformation at a public platform. While Rahul Gandhi has reprimanded Aiyar for his "neech" remark despite the staunch Nehruvian secular being a party veteran, PM Modi has rewarded lowering of public discourse online and offline by following abusive trolls on Twitter and promoting some of them to important official positions within the party.
Demeaning PM's office
However, what's new is that PM Modi himself is leading the charge of this benighted brigade of fraudulence practised at the highest level. With the National Investigation Agency, the Intelligence Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Delhi Police, the Research and Analysis Wing, among other probing and intel-gathering bodies at his disposal, it's incredible that the PM would resort to making stinging insinuations and slanders at top office-bearers, including PM Manmohan Singh, without ordering probes into such possibilities, and only to polarise the Gujaratis along the jaded Hindu-Muslim line.
Pakistan was invoked in the previous instances of Bihar and Delhi Assembly elections, especially in December 2015 when BJP national president Amit Shah had said that crackers would be burst in Pakistan in case the BJP is defeated in the elections. The grave irony in invoking the Pakistan bogey lies in the fact that PM Modi's "birthday diplomacy" with Pakistan and former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif was followed by the Pathankot attack in January of 2016, only to be supplemented by the Uri attack in September last year. That PM Modi invited members of the Pakistani state-backed espionage group Inter-Services Intelligence to peruse the Pathankot airbase after the January 2-3 attack has not gone uncommented upon.
Evidently, the purpose of invoking Pakistan and alluding that a former prime minister, former vice-president, an ex-COAS, former high-level diplomats, as well as former ministers and members of the Opposition have colluded with the neighbouring country to influence a local Assembly election is branding of not just criticism but any political opposition within the country as tantamount to being anti-national. This isn't the authoritarian bluster of the state against a bunch of JNU students resorting to mere sloganeering. This is undermining of the very structures of parliamentary democracy and striking at its very heart.
Rebranding political opponents as anti-nationals
The reconfiguration of the political opponent as the anti-national, who's conspiring to overthrow the ruling regime with the help of an enemy country, is symptomatic of extremely authoritarian states, or a beleaguered democracy such as Pakistan itself. BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has insinuated that on December 6, at the residence of Mani Shankar Aiyar, such as palace coup had its inception, the result of which was the ousted Congress leader calling the PM a "neech aadmi".
Did Pak Ambassador meet MS Aiyar and three other Congi leaders at MSA residence five days ago on Gujarat strategy? Palace coup in offing?— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) December 9, 2017
While such wild allegations do turn the ruling BJP into a laughing stock, such industrial production of insinuation amounts to rank propaganda and rebranding of the political adversaries as seditious plotters. This is blurring the line between the nation and the ruling government and its political party. This is ideologically aimed conflation of discussions and meetings with plotting against the "Hindu" country. This is the intentional turning of a gathering of former diplomats and office-bearers into a conflagration of seditious anti-democratic persons conspiring to influence an important state election by helping elect a Muslim.
However, this is BJP in its elements - the party mainly responsible for razing Babri masjid to dust 25 years back and forever changing the grammar of Indian political language. This is fascism slowly declaring from the mouth of the highest elected office-bearer in the country that it's officially here.