Selective outrage on Rahul Gandhi’s trips exposes hypocrisy and malice

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s trip to America, where the leader today slated to address students at University of California, Berkeley, has predictably, ruffled the feathers of his opponents. Like it is the norm with every visit of his, many questions were raised even this time, most of them superfluous.

First, it was the bogey of fake news raised very conveniently to insinuate that Mr. Gandhi was going to the US to speak on the ground-breaking subject of Artificial Intelligence. Somehow, trolls and associated echo chambers on social media saw the humour in the proposition. No biggie that it was Rahul’s father, the late Mr. Rajiv Gandhi and the Congress party who championed the cause of computers and Information Technology to India. Something like this was greeted with derision. Then opposition leader and later a Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee, mocked saying “Why do we need computers?”

Yet others were busy stoking fires to divide the country in terms of religion. Their ancient thought processes have not undergone much change even today.

Further, even if a politician in modern India were to speak about Artificial Intelligence, what’s so funny in that? If anything, India as an aspiring superpower should aim to be the world leader in AI. AI is also the subject of a much-reported disagreement between the two of the tallest tech leaders in the world, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. No laughing matter, then, is it?

Whether it is Norway or the United States of America, somehow Mr. Gandhi’s foreign trips always gets the goat of opponents. Even when he tweets information on an upcoming visit, adding that he will be visiting his grandmother and family abroad, it becomes the subject of hate. A section of the media gives credence to the perception that Mr. Gandhi is always away on vacations. The troll army wants to know the “real” purpose of his visit.

Somewhere between writing Mr. Gandhi off completely, and making fun of him, his opponents never forget to check his itinerary and look for opportunities to troll him. Indeed, if he is so insignificant in the political scheme of things as they often claim, pray tell then, why a section of the opponents’ undivided attention is always focused on Mr. Gandhi.

In contrast though, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi divides his time between frequent foreign trips and whirlwind election campaigns, the same standards are not employed for him. Hard questions are not asked on what tangible gains his visits have brought. Somehow, the media decides to look the other way. Mr. Modi is not asked if, as a Prime Minister, it is correct to devote his time to political campaigning, and not in governing the nation.
 
Further, it worth asking exactly what has the common man of India gained from Mr. Modi’s rather celebrated foreign trips? An analysis by India Samvad shows that only a handful of corporates like Ambani and Adani have benefitted from Mr. Modi’s trips. Here are a few highlights: 
 
Modi’s Russia Visit- India’s Reliance Defence signs $6bn deal with Russian arms firm as Modi visits Moscow

Modi’s France Visit- Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group ties up with Dassault after Rafale fighter jet deal

Modi’s Australia Visit- Adani’s Australia coal mine project gets final approval

Modi’s Bangladesh Visit- NTPC, Adani, RPower, Petronet sign pacts for projects in Bangladesh

Modi’s United States’ Visit- Reliance Defence signs warship repair pact with US Navy. The deal may generate Rs15,000 crore revenue for Reliance Defence over next three to five years

Modi’s Israel Visit- Adani & Israel’s Elbit form JV for unmanned aerial vehicles

It may be coincidence, but it does look like a certain pattern is emerging. The yardstick for judging Rahul Gandhi and tall leaders of the government is distinctly different. Mr. Modi is not questioned for his foreign policy pushing Nepal, Sri Lanka and Burma towards China. The issues are staring us right in the eye, yet there is a failure to ask for accountability. Top seven Indian-based outsourcing companies in the US received fewer H-1B visas in 2016 as compared to 2015 due to the new visa restrictions placed in America. Yet the failure to negotiate a better deal is not questioned. 
 
If one has tracked the politicisation of the internet, and origins of fake news, it would be clear that the BJP was one of the first adopters of the medium. Part of that is official and most of it is not. When it comes to the later, sundry websites spreading absolute lies sprung up way before the 2014 elections.

Character assassination, running down of the Nehru-Gandhi legacy with untruths, attributing crimes and misdemeanours never committed were all par for the course. The opponents with their money and might, have attempted to create a certain narrative of Mr. Gandhi. The thing with propaganda is that a lie repeated often enough becomes a truth that is widely accepted.

However, with time, people have seen through that veneer, and the sincerity in Mr. Gandhi’s actions has touched hearts of people. It was then that they employed other means. When Mr. Gandhi stood with the farmers in Mandsaur, it became “political tourism”, when he went to Gorakhpur to stand with the families of the dead children, it became a “picnic”. Most recently, when he shared a video blog on failing medical facilities in Gorakhpur, trolls dubbed it as “drama”. The hypocrisy exposes itself when Mr. Modi or any of the BJP’s leaders are never scrutinised with a microscope for their actions.

It only portends well for the country, when its prominent Opposition leader believes in learning new things and gaining exposure to different subjects, before applying the same in the country and in his party. We shall be served well to remember that when Mr. Rajiv Gandhi brought computers to India, there were critics who opposed it! There were critics then, there are critics now. But they will never be able to stop Congress party’s march towards creating a better India.

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