Earlier today, social media websites were abuzz with a new Congress ‘toolkit’ that revealed the depths to which the party had descended in their bid to attack the Modi government. The toolkit included a detailed plan and a specific set of instructions for its leaders to milk the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in the country and mount an anti-Modi propaganda blitz.
From maligning the Kumbh Mela and describing it as ‘super spreader’ to using international media and ‘friendly’ journalists to defame PM Modi, to blocking beds and hoarding other essential supplies for favourable social media PR, the content of the toolkit included a range of directives for the loyal Congress leaders and supporters to be followed to paint PM Modi and his government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak in a bad light.
The exposure of the toolkit elicited a predictable reaction from the Congress party, which sought to wash its hands off the explosive document. The chairman of the AICC Research Department, Rajeev Gowda, quickly went into damage control mode, in an attempt to salvage the party from the political quicksand it had found itself in. Rajeev Gowda in a tweet claimed the toolkit is bogus and has threatened legal action against BJP leaders.
“BJP is propagating a fake “toolkit” on “COVID-19 mismanagement” & attributing it to AICC Research Department. We are filing an FIR for forgery against @jpnadda & @sambitswaraj When our country is devastated by COVID, instead of providing relief, BJP shamelessly concocts forgeries,” Gowda tweeted.
BJP is propagating a fake “toolkit” on “COVID-19 mismanagement” & attributing it to AICC Research Department. We are filing an FIR for forgery against @jpnadda & @sambitswaraj
When our country is devastated by COVID, instead of providing relief, BJP shamelessly concocts forgeries
— Rajeev Gowda (@rajeevgowda) May 18, 2021
The alacrity with which Gowda dismissed the document as “fake” underscores the desperation of the Congress party to distance itself from the toolkit fiasco. While Congress’ staunch denial of the toolkit as being fake is intended to dissociate themselves from the document, the content of the toolkit, taken in context with the recent occurrences, provides sufficient reasons why people believe that the document is the handiwork of the Congress party.
Though OpIndia cannot pass any judgements on the authenticity of the so-called ‘toolkit’, there are several reasons why people are going to believe it as authentic. The Congress party’s own behaviour, the responses of the leaders and ecosystem in general fits the toolkit perfectly. Here are some examples.
The vilification of Kumbh Mela as ‘super-spreader’ event of COVID-19
Long before the Congress toolkit was exposed, a host of Congress supporters and sympathisers had taken to social media to malign the Kumbh Mela. As the second wave of the coronavirus outbreak struck India, these set of individuals blamed the Kumbh Mela gathering for the spread of the contagion, while giving a free pass to the ‘farmers’ protests that have been happening for months along Delhi’s borders.
Even though analysts and epidemiologists claimed that the new surge of the COVID-19 cases in India could be attributed to the UK strain, which they claimed could have spread because of the protests carried out by the so-called farmers, the Congress supporters continued blaming the Kumbh Mela for the rapid spread of the virus. This, when preventive measures were put in place to stop the spread of the virus during the Kumbh Mela.
Days later, when Eid gatherings were seen out in several parts of the country, witnessing participation of people in huge numbers, in brazen disregard of the coronavirus restrictions, the Congress supporters and their online warriors did not proceed to call the Eid celebrations as ‘super spreader’ events.
The toolkit which was exposed today specifically instructed Congress supporters to malign the Kumbh Mela gathering as an event that contributed to the spike in the coronavirus outbreak in the country. Whereas for Eid celebrations, the toolkit described them as happy social gatherings of families and communities.
The conduct of the party regarding the Kumbh Mela also fits in perfectly with its long standing history of minority appeasement.
International media’s morbid fascination to indulge in tragedy porn while reporting India’s COVID-19 crisis
One of the significant revelations made in the toolkit that is circulating on social media is the use of the international media and ‘friendly’ journalists to propagate anti-Modi propaganda. The document instructed the supporters to rope in the international media to criticise and amplify the perceived COVID-19 mismanagement by the Modi government.
This directive dovetails perfectly with various tragedy porn articles published in the western media with respect to India’s COVID-19 surge. Countless articles featuring pictures of funeral pyres were published in the western media.
The COVID-19 pandemic disclosed the western media’s unhealthy fetish of linking India’s COVID-19 outbreak with funeral pyres. Several media organisations, be it Washington Post or Reuters, posted pictures of funeral pyres from various places in India to highlight the severity of the pandemic. One of the Washington Post journalists even described a cremation ground’s vertical shot as “stunning”.
However, viewed in the context of the toolkit that was exposed earlier this morning, it cannot be discounted that the western media may have been acting at Congress’ bidding. After all, the toolkit does ask supporters to use the international media outlets to paint a grim picture of India’s COVID-19 crisis.
Additionally, the toolkit also mentioned taking use of the international media in vilifying the Kumbh Mela as the super spreader. There has been a litany of articles in the western media outlets where the Kumbh Mela gathering is held responsible for the recent spurt in the coronavirus cases in the country. However, hardly a few articles pinned the blame on the ongoing ‘farmers’ protests for the devastating spread of the virus in Delhi and the adjoining areas.
It appears that the International Media was working in accordance with the instructions mentioned in the Congress toolkit. The uncanny similarities in the turn of the events that took place in the recent past with the explicit set of instruction issued in the toolkit are too profound to be dismissed as a mere coincidence.
Allegations of hoarding levelled against Youth Congress President Srinivas B V
Recently, the Delhi Police interrogated Youth Congress leader Srinivas BV over the allegations of illegal procurement and distribution of Covid-19 drugs in an ongoing investigation ordered by the Delhi High Court. A petition was filed in the High Court seeking a CBI probe into an alleged “medical mafia-politician nexus” and illegal distribution of COVID medicines by politicians. The petitioners had mentioned Srinivas B V as one of the politicians who allegedly hoarded essential medicines.
The Congress toolkit, on the other hand, suggested its followers collaborate with ‘friendly’ hospitals to ‘block beds’ and other essential facilities like ventilators, oxygen cylinders, to be released only on their request. The recommendation of blocking beds and key medicines perfectly jibes with the allegations levelled by the petitioner against the Youth Congress president Srinivas B V.
“Liaise with local ground level political leaders in cities to keep some beds and other facilities blocked in friendly hospitals, to be released only on our request,” one of the subheadings under “Amplify work of frontal Congress organisations,” said.
Needless to say, Congress’ plan was to gain favourable publicity and PR, even if that meant depriving patients of hospital beds and endangering their lives. They asked their leaders to forge collaborations with friendly hospitals so that desperate.
The IYC’s ability, and dubious eagerness to supply oxygen cylinders to the New Zealand and Philippines embassies was even questioned by EAM S Jaishankar, who, in his response to Congress’ Jairam Ramesh asked how Congress workers are supplying Oxygen to places with zero Covid cases while patients in Delhi are facing an acute shortage.
While Congress has vehemently denied the existence of a toolkit, dismissed it as fake, the correspondence between the events that took place in the last few weeks and the specific set of pointed instructions mentioned in the toolkit indicates that the party will find few takers for its claim.