Kannada Version: Here
On 20th May 2020, an incident happened near Agrahara Lake of Kolar Taluk of Karnataka. It drew the attention of the mainstream media and the people, so much so that CM Yeddyurappa himself had to react to it. How the incident unfolded in media gives us an opportunity to understand the successful model of the workings of BJP IT cell.
On that day, Minor irrigation and water resources minister Madhuswamy had gone to inspect a lake, and Nalini and her sister Uma, both activists with Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangha ( Farmers´organisation) too happened to be there and they had an interaction with the minister.
Nalini had asked the minister about an issue related to the lake. During the interaction, the minister said- ‘I’m a very bad man, shut up you rascal’ to the two women activists. When Maduswami said “rascal”, she was heard asking “why do you talk like that Anna(brother)” and nothing else. The video became viral on social media. Almost everyone condemned the minister. Some TV channels and Newspapers too carried special coverage of the report.
Madhuswamy issues half-apology
On that day one could see defences coming from Mandhuswamy followers with comments like the comments like “one needs to checks what happened before and after what the minister said, only then we will be able to understand the complete truth”.
BJP IT cell smear campaign tool kit contains character assassination that can range from social media photos, clothes, invoking feudal and anti-women sentiment, and tarnishing overall credibility as an activist.
The next day Madhuswamy himself defended his actions by putting the blame on Nalini and calling her problem maker. He said- “She is always like that, listen to what the police officer said about her. Just because I’m a minister doesn’t mean I need to get scolded by anyone? I said what I said because she provoked me to it. It was true that i said, I apologize if you’re hurt.’
CM Yeddyurappa too on the same day said, “it was wrong, I will warn him and will speak with the girl too.’
Since Nalini didn’t say anything wrong or offensive, it was not possible to ruin her image just with this video.
So, it was obvious that the case can’t be won with Madhuswami’s half-apology alone.
How the BJP IT cell works?
In BJP IT cell, apart from the official employees of the IT cell, there are many who work anonymously, those working on outsourcing contracts according to the agenda in different projects, and so on. But there is a central IT cell, which not just oversees the social media work but also manages about how the entire narrative needs to be. With them, there is a team that decides what should come in social media, what should be a focus on TV channels and which opinion makers should speak what.
Once the central team decides on the narrative and what angle of the incident to be attacked, that message is broadcast to all the concerned users and after that, everyone starts posting posts, videos, live video using their own creativity but toeing the line that the central IT cell has decided for them.
For TV channel there are different ways. They work out the narrative, the angle, and push it through their people and many times the channel chiefs themselves handle it for them. Sometimes, if the chiefs realise their narrative can’t be like the IT cell, they pass it as an exclusive saying ‘such an angle also is heard loudly’. And they run it as special breaking news. If needed, there will be a ‘Package’, which means there will be an order saying such and such story be run at a particular time, which would involve bribes of different kinds.
‘Systematic’ and ‘Spontaneous’; Two different types
Some months ago, BJP MLA Basavaraj Yatnal spoke badly of the centenarian freedom fighter HS Doreswamy. Within hours, there was a smear campaign against the celebrated freedom fighter. That was not an accident, but a systematic campaign.
TV channels had received instruction as to not to abuse BJP on the Doreswamy case and the channel interpreted this instruction as ‘don’t abuse BJP but abuse Doreswamy.’ And the result was an insult to journalism and freedom struggle.
On the Madhuswamy case, the IT cell was quiet on the first day, only the fans of Madhuswamy defended him on their Facebook accounts. At the same time, Facebook pages and groups of Tumkur district were also criticizing Madhuswamy.
Before the BJP IT cell intervened, most of the arguments were about Nalini picking fight and arguing with the minister and shared with local groups in Tumkur.
But the next day (May 22) IT cell became super active and suddenly many social media posters were circulating against Nalini. In all the pictures, along with Nalini, there were local farmer leaders and her family. They all said Nalini to be an activist.
But the narrative changed when…
The experienced lot descend to the field
After May 22, the experienced lot decided that this argument will NOT work. From that time onwards, (after May 22, 11.30 AM) they stopped the earlier arguments and started another tune on both real and fake BJP accounts.
The new narrative had a new poster that said ‘ Hindu Virodhi Prakash Raj being feted by Nakali activist.’ and a series of such posters followed. They posted pictures of her with HS Doreswamy and started criticizing her with vulgar words. It meant, those who were capable of doing character assassination of people like Doreswami came into the picture. From that time onwards, those who shared social media posters in Kolar, started going to pages of Tumkur district, to which Mr. Madhuswami belongs.
How certain photos were selected to create a narrative
The same Nalini had pictures of herself with KS Puttannaiah, Chukki Nanjundaswami, Devanoora Mahadeva (all renowned leaders of farmers movement in Karnataka) on her Facebook wall. It was proof enough to show that she was active in activism for long. But only those pictures which can be projected as anti-Hindu were used.
And then they even stooped even further. They didn’t bother to use the pictures of her toiling in the farm or driving a tractor, instead, they used her pictures where she is seen to be sitting on a bike or riding a scooter and posters with these pictures with captions ‘Does she look like an activist?’ started flooding social media. All these posters came from BJP central team.
Why did Malavika, the actress, and BJP supporter come into the picture?
Even this is part of the systematic tactic. What’s wrong if she’s wearing trousers and shirts? What problem do they have if she rides a scooter? Does she not have a right to ask questions to a minister? And the video is proof that she hasn’t said a single wrong word or did any wrong. In such a case, there was just one way; to paint a picture that she is not of ‘good’ character. Even then they couldn’t create falsehoods that could have been accepted by society.
Finally, they resorted to rouse the feudal mindset by concentrating on the fact of her riding bikes and wearing trousers. They had to create posters that would be shared by men who believe and want women should be restricted to the kitchen. (it is no secret that the majority of people who support BJP have this mindset.)
But that was not enough, this had to be told by a woman; hence Ms. Malavika was brought into the picture. She was already notorious about her anti-women statements. She too commented on her dress and such. Her post about Nalini, doubting her activist credential because of what she had worn in a picture came on 23rd May morning. But that also backfired. and her post received lot of flak and she deleted it.
Can a political party stoop so low?
So, we can see in this way, the IT cell can assassinate the character of model young woman who has been bravely working on farmers’ causes. These people have the experience of defending murders of MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, and such. It is worth noting that they used anti-women, anti-freedom of expression stand to attack Nalini. Not just that, they used this opportunity to strengthen the narrative of damning people like Doreswami, a freedom fighter who went to prison during the quit India movement and emergency.
As if that’s not enough, she was then projected as a ‘communist’. MD Nanjundaswami, whom Nalini follows was not a communist. They have already been successful in projecting the word ‘communism’ as if its some bad word. This just shows that based on complete lies, half-lies and white lies, BJP has gained considerable experience in doing character assassination. Nalini is just a small target for the vast arsenal that they have.
It is not just about Nalini; instead, we need to consider this as a fight against a machine that is anti-human and anti-nation.