It took a while for the realisation to dawn that I was a Sanghi Bhakt from BJP IT Cell. That’s what anyone who disagreed with me on social media had been calling me for a long time now, instead of responding to the question I asked or respond to the point I was trying to make. “What has the Modi Govt done for the farmers?” Someone asked no one in general on Twitter, and it didn’t seem like a rhetorical question to me. So, having heard about some initiatives, I googled and listed out schemes like National Agricultural Market, Fasal Bima Yojna, Micro Irrigation Funding etc. “Lol! Sanghi Bhakt from BJP IT Cell. Go and have Gomutra” was the prompt response, which really flabbergasted me. Yes, Livestock Insurance was one of the schemes mentioned, but how did the conversation end up here?
Soon I started seeing a pattern. Anyone who had even a moderately good word to say about this government was promptly labelled such by a certain type of people. These were usually from privileged backgrounds, fancy education and sheltered jobs based on the patron-client traditions followed for 70 years in India, irrespective of which government was in power. Admissions in the best schools and colleges, jobs in media houses and international development organisations, funding for NGOs and research grants – you had to have the right pedigree or connections, and doors would open miraculously. (If you don’t believe me, check out the backgrounds of the most vocal anti-government voices in media. You will find them offsprings of those from the ‘charmed circle’ – bureaucrats, diplomats – and even a dance teacher to the daughter of a former prime minister.)
Having reached where they had without deserving to, it had been a simple matter to remain there as long as they continued to serve their benefactors. Favours and information were the currencies they dealt in – a smear campaign to discredit an inconvenient leader from the opposing party, or withholding potentially embarrassing news about own. Common people like me took everything they said as the truth, since before social media all we saw was what they wanted us to see. Far from being the conscience keepers of the powerful, they were power brokers themselves. They controlled the narrative of public discourse, making it out to be what their masters wanted it to be.
Rise of an alternative narrative started with the proliferation of social media, powered by affordable smartphones and virtually free internet. Now even someone like me could tell a celebrity news anchor that I don’t agree with him, and contradict his assertions with logic and facts. And our conflicting narratives were out there for the world to see, and decide which of them they agreed with. They lost their grip on information as well as the narrative, and saw their source of power slipping away. It was a double whammy when a sympathetic, favour dispensing regime gave way to the present dispensation. From fixing ministerial berths to losing their own seats on the Prime Minister’s Air India One when he travels abroad, the fall was painful indeed. Hell hath no fury like a ‘liberal’ denied her nosebag, and all this fury vented itself on the PM and his government. In their eyes, he or it could do no right. Like one wit observed, if Modi said oxygen is good for you, these guys would stop breathing.
But in the changed scenario were they no longer had the monopoly on information and opinion, they found their assertions against the government called out by ordinary people like me. We were puzzled by their constant cribbing, because all around us we saw good work happening for a change. We also understood that cleaning up the mess of 70 odd years takes a while, and have the patience to wait for it to start producing results. Hence our responses on social media like the one I referred to in the beginning. When you’re trying to build up a narrative based on bias rather than facts, it is disconcerting to have inconvenient facts that counter that narrative being thrust in your face. Hence they went into a denial mode. Anyone who confronts them with a counter narrative is immediately labelled as Sanghi Bhakt from BJP IT Cell.
But what they don’t know is that apart from affordable smartphones and virtually free data, we Sanghi Bhakts also have a vote each. And every snide remark, every disdainful comment and every false tweet only serves to increase our numbers. Many a neutral observers like me have turned avowed bhakts thanks to them. This took BJP from 284 to 303 in 2019, and yet these poor souls haven’t learnt their lesson. Maybe, if they carry on like this, 2024 may result in a 2/3rd majority.