Narrative of “International Conspiracy” or hidden “Foreign Hand” has been in vogue in country’s politics for over four decades with all parties without exception using it at one time or the other. Strategy to use the narrative is to create scare among the people by whipping emotions with the objective of reaping the electoral dividends.
While earlier the Congress had used it with mixed results, its forceful usage by the ruling BJP and its top leadership raises valid questions whether it is going to work this time or not in achieving desired results. “The Congress has lost its mental balance after losing power. After not finding any in India, it is looking for alliance partners outside the country. Now will a foreign country decide who will be country’s Prime Minister?” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said last week addressing party workers during a ‘Karyakarta Mahakumbh’ in the poll-bound state of Madhya Pradesh.
Politicians do not utter a wordthat they do not mean. “International conspiracy” or “foreign hand” narrative is Modi’s favourite attack weapon and he uses it with passion and precision whenever to extricate himself when cornered. It is clear that Modi has become vulnerable because the Congress is going ahead with full throttle attacking him on the purchase of 36 Rafale jetfighters from French company Dassault alleging corruption in the deal. While Modi is maintaining silence over the Rafale issue refusing to answer any questions on the issue, his ministers have failed to defend him convincingly. The Prime Minister, in fact, appears to be totally rattled by the revelation made by former French President Francois Hollande. Modi had possibly not expected an offensive from Hollande.
Modi’s reference to alliance partners in foreign country was not an off the cuff remark but was the part of the well-thought strategy as subsequent use of the same narrative by his party is enough of an evidence.
Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, while addressing media at the BJP headquarter in the Union capital, claimed that the allegations of the Congress on Rafale deal were part of an “International Conspiracy’ to remove Modi from the prime ministerial chair.
Earlier too, the BJP has been attacking Rahul Gandhi whenever they could find even oblique reference to anything foreign in his speech, statement or utterings. Fear of the alien or scare of unknown is the nucleus of the strategy that is primarily used by political parties to capture power. Doubts are sought to be created in popular mind about a leader or a political party. While both the ruling as well as the opposition party have deployed this strategy sometime or the other but the latter is found to be using more often.
It has been observed that the ruling party whose popularity begins to nosedive resorts to it for diverting the public mind from pressing issues. Main objective is to defame political opponents by alleging that they are opposing the ruling party in collaboration with foreign forces.
In 70s and 80s of the last century, the Congress used to accuse the US spy agency- the CIA- to discredit its opponents, Opposition parties particularly the BJP’s earlier incarnation-the Bharatiya Jan Sangh- retaliated by charging the then ruling Congress to be the Soviet agents.
The BJP had experimented it earlier by questioning the leadership of former Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the issue of her foreign origins. A systematic and coherently planned campaign was launched by the BJP on Sonia’s Italian origins to discredit her when she assumed charge of the Congress party. It did not help the BJP as the Congress continued to gain political strength under her leadership with its return to power in 2004. In fact, Sonia gained in stature and the BJP’s campaign seen from the hindsight helped her.
Both Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah know that the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi are gaining traction among the people because of multiple failure of the government. With petroleum prices rising every day, national currency falling, unemployment soaring and agriculture being in distress, the BJP’s political graph is sinking downwards.
That is why, it is imperative for the BJP to attack the Congress and Rahul Gandhi. The Congress chief’s foreign visits offer excellent opportunities to the BJP to question him for criticizing the government, the BJP and Modi on foreign soil. The BJP conveniently chooses to overlook that Modi was the first one to raise accusing fingers at the opposition during his foreign tours. Breaking long held convention of Prime Minister not discussing domestic politics on foreign soil, Modi raised accusing fingers at the Congress holding it responsible for the lack of development in the country.
It is least surprising that the country’s politics has come down to such abysmal depths. Attacks and counter attacks from both the ruling BJP as well from the opposition are going to be fierce as elections to state assemblies come nearer to be followed by the general elections.
While Modi and the BJP at this stage have alluded to international alliance partner, it is certain that Pakistan is going to be used as a trump card in coming weeks. If an opportunity does not come their way, then situation will be created so that the Congress and Gandhis can be presented to the Indian electorate to be hand in glove with Pakistan rulers.
It is going to be a cat and mouse game which the BJP and the opposition in general and the Congress in particular are going to play. Modi-Shah duo knows that the Congress is the primary opponent and that is why its credibility needs to be destroyed in public eyes. No efforts are going to be spared and foreign hand or international conspiracy are the most convenient tools.
Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.