The Flop Show: How the Pro-CAA Campaign is Full of Hilarious Misfires

Politics

The Flop Show: How the Pro-CAA Campaign is Full of Hilarious Misfires

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

The BJP, it seems, has a special ability to take the news cycle and turn it into a Tiger Shroff movie. Every time it announces a new scheme for the benefit of the country — DeMo, the abrogation of Article 370, the beef ban, Manoj Tiwari’s candidacy — it’s met by at least one person fainting in anticipation.

After winning a thumping majority in 2019, though, it seemed like none of these headlines could affect the party’s image of being a pro-development/corruption-free machine. So, they decided that the time was right for the next grand plan: Announcing the eventual implementation of the contentious CAA-NRC nightmare combo.

This turned out to be a big mistake. Ever since the CAB became the CAA, the party’s perception seems to have shifted, with most comments going from “love you long time shri Modi ji” to the less fawning “respect you well enough Modiji”. Because this time, every attempt made by the government to school the public on the benefits of the CAA, every rupee they’ve spent on convincing us that they mean well, has ended up backfiring as hard as Karan Johar’s decision to make a reality show about finding love — everyone can tell it comes from an insincere place.

For evidence, log on to YouTube, where just last week the BJP responded to the ongoing protests across the country, in the most ingenious way they could think of — aggressive pop ad jingle. The video went up on January 31, and makes no bones about the government’s vision for the upcoming Delhi elections. Featuring Umar Khalid as deshdrohi-in-chief, flags of India, burning buses, and about 12 generic models with rather intense expressions, we’re sorry to report, that the latest in BJP’s attempts to swing favour may have ended up coming across a tad desperate.

I say “tad”, but the whole song is pretty much an in-your-face demand for “well-meaning” individuals to “do their duty” and “teach Urban Naxals from Shaheen Bagh a lesson”. I’m not going to get into the specifics, but it’s pretty much what you’d get if you made a North Korean dictator read Swarajya magazine for a week and then teach him how to play the guitar.

Every time it announces a new scheme for the benefit of the country it’s met by at least one person fainting in anticipation.

This time, however, even aggressive pop ad jingle wasn’t enough to convince the rest of the country that BJP would be a better choice for Delhi. The video has, at the time of writing this, 3.5k likes and a whopping 145k dislikes. Bear in mind that this is a party with 2.5 million followers on YouTube, the biggest IT cell in India, and the second-most followed world leader on Twitter, off whose coat-tails other tweeters literally make careers.

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The signs have been on the wall for months. In December, the completely impartial journalist Sudhir Chaudhury of Zee News, who has an exemplary knack for turning stories that have nothing to do with BJP in the party’s favour (and once convinced the janta that 2,000-rupee notes had a GPS chip), asked his Twitter followers what they thought of the CAA. In the replies, he probably expected a tirade about the Tukde Tukde gang, but what he got was 66 per cent of his followers admitting they didn’t support the Act. This led the wholly neutral journalist to declare the entire poll rigged, in a move that just screams unprejudiced, if you ask me. Just like the views of this other outraged tweeter:

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Later, while Chaudhury managed to drum up enough votes to leave the final score at 49.5 (for) and 50.5 (against), the damage had already been done. Even fellow “impartial journalist” Anjana Om Kashyap seemed to have flipped sides, reporting that the CAA and NRC was a “lethal combination” and that the government would have to rethink its approach.

Outreach programmes by the BJP haven’t helped either. When BJP minister Kiren Rijiju called on Malayalam writer George Onakkoor to ask him for his support to the CAA, the writer hosted Rijiju “courteously”, ate a meal with him, and then expressed his displeasure over the Act to his face. So the party turned to Jaggi Vasudev to try and convince voters instead. What followed was a video in which Sadhguru condescends to people who haven’t read the Act while admitting he hadn’t read the Act himself. That went down about as well as you’d expect — a Twitter poll put out by the Isha foundation had to be deleted after 62 per cent of the voters said they were against the act.

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The pro-CAA protests organised across the country met with a similar fate (protesting something you’re in favour of, what a concept!) At the Mumbai rally, which was attended by a grand total of 250 people, members of the ABVP, and the larger Sangh Parivar tried their best to put on a show of strength. Eventually the man they presented as a Muslim supporter of the CAA, and asked to pose for cameras, went on to express his displeasure for the Act. Awkward, but at least they could spell “India”, unlike the pro-CAA protestors in Kochi.

Meanwhile, as the situation in Delhi escalates further, the BJP’s defences are continuing to crumble. Post the incessant sloganeering by its leaders that led to a spate of gunmen visiting the Jamia protestors, there have been several attempts to pass the buck over to anyone but the ones who made literal calls to shoot protestors. In between accusing the Congress, Left, NCP, Shiv Sena, Tukde Tukde Gang, pretty much anyone they could think of at a moment’s notice, the Delhi Police have now targeted the Delhi government led by AAP, claiming one of the shooters — who literally said he was against the protests — was an agent of Arvind Kejriwal.

The Delhi Police have now targeted the Delhi government led by AAP, claiming one of the shooters was an agent of Arvind Kejriwal.

But this claim was so thin it couldn’t even pass the first test, after a family member of Kapil Gujjar denied the accusations. “I have no idea where these photographs are circulating from… My nephew has never been affiliated with any political party nor has any other member from my family,” he said, presumably leaving an IT cell scrambling to find a connection between the BSP and Arvind Kejriwal. And since we’re talking about IT Cells, the head of BJP’s, Amit Malviya, recently tried to prove that protestors were paid Rs 500 each to sit at Shaheen Bagh, another claim that was — surprise, surprise — debunked.

Of course, all of this will be moot if the BJP somehow pulls another 2019 and manages to swing a victory in Delhi despite this backlash. If that happens Manoj Tiwari should consider being shot out of a cannon with a banner that says “CAA is a rox” for the victory parade. Maybe that’ll convince enough people to leave Shaheen Bagh.

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