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2016 was gloomy; 2017 may get gloomier: The new normal is bitter and disregards truth

2016 was a gloomy year.

Chaos overwhelmed order and noise trumped good sense all through. Propaganda suffocated truth and opinion rode roughshod over facts. At the end of it India appeared to have finally settled into the new normal.

Welcome to the post-truth age. And goodbye the old world obsessed with morality.

What is the defining feature of the new normal? It has to be obfuscation of and disregard for truth. It rides on the brute power of propaganda and not-so-subtle manipulation of mass opinion. Truth is no more simple black and white; it is imbued with many shades and ambiguities. Innuendos, insinuations and disinformation designed to be malicious and address the lowest common denominator play a role to cloud it.

Representational image.

Representational image.

India was angrier, bitter and more cynical than ever the whole of the year, thanks to the crudity in the air. The hate talk, the unbridled combativeness and expression of acrimony is likely to continue through the next year and beyond. The rise and rise of the emotion-driven, and sometimes irrational, Right is one reason why. The failure of those in the ideological Left and the middle to develop a convincing counter-argument to them is another. But the worst is the inability of the ordinary Indian to keep himself insulated from political developments and study the reality around dispassionately.

The new normal is characterised by low trust and the tendency of players, political and otherwise, to exploit the trust gap through calculated lies and half-truths spread among people. Lies are what remained in full play in 2016. Every allegation against every political leader in the media and elsewhere was falsehood. The choice of the word ‘lie’ is deliberate. Over the last two-and-half years we have been hearing of scandals and involvement of political biggies in them. Television channels produce irrefutable proof every other day. How come none of the accused is in jail so far? How come Robert Vadra‘s land deals make it to headlines every couple of months yet he is not even in the court once? Obviously, we were being fed untruth all along or someone wanted to keep us distracted from our many existential problems.

The worst part is, we as a people have started enjoying the lies, elevated them to some kind of mass entertainment. The spicier it is the better. Obviously, we don’t give a damn. We have made truth irrelevant to our lives and facts redundant.

In the process we have diminished ourselves morally. In the post-truth age morality, private, public and institutional has taken a dip. It was evident the way we bought propaganda peddled by politicians on both sides of the ideological divide with a conniving media with unrelenting relish and happily became part of their political wars. We forgot that the idea of India was bigger than any ideology or leader. It is unlikely to change anytime soon.

The diminishing of institutions of public trust is a dimension of the new normal. So when the judiciary passes a verdict it is no more accepted as sacrosanct; when the Army says it conducted surgical strikes there are as many doubters as believers and when the Reserve Bank of India offers facts on demonetisation, there is suspicion. The police no more inspires respect. Government, run by politicians as they are, has always been low on credibility. How does a democracy function when all its institutions lack vigour and the social capital called trust? We were too busy asserting ourselves over others to notice the damage to the institutions and with them the sense of order.

Yes, 2016 was gloomy. 2017 promises to be no better.

First Published On : Dec 30, 2016 18:29 IST

With every visit of Kejriwal to Punjab, AAP loses more votes: Sukhbir Singh Badal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have won a majority in Punjab if the assembly elections were held a year ago but is unlikely to get seats in double digit in the polls next year, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal said.”With every visit of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to Punjab, AAP loses more seats as people have seen through him. Even if the elections were held in Delhi today, the AAP will not get majority there also,” Badal claimed. “Punjabis like to try new things now they have seen AAP and they have seen that Kejriwal promises something, does something else. They have discarded him,” Badal said while responding to a question on AAP at Agenda Aaj Tak.A confident Badal said the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) will complete its “hat-trick” in Punjab as he ruled out AAP from the race while indicating that the contest was between his party and Congress.”If assembly elections were held a year ago, AAP might have won 70 seats, but now the scenario has totally changed (and) as of now, the party will not get more than nine seats, whereas Congress may get 35-40 seats and we will get 70 seats,” Badal said.Replying to questions on the issue of drug menace in Punjab, Badal said it was a “propaganda” to defame the youth of the state.”All this started when (Congress Vice President) Rahul Gandhi came to Punjab and read from a paper saying 70 per cent of youth in the state are drug addicts. Whereas the reality was that 70 per cent of drug addicts were youth, his problem is he can only read from what is given to him written on a paper,” the SAD president said.He further said it has been established that with latest police recruitment that very negligible percentage youth are taking drugs. “Recently our government conducted recruitment for the state police and for which more than four lakh youngsters applied. We conducted tests and only 1.26 per cent were found taking drugs. And that is half the national average. This result should finally put to rest the startling figures of drug abuse in Punjab that have been making rounds,” Badal said. He said the “propaganda” is “defaming the youth” in Punjab and is against the state and should be stopped. However, he said the Border Security Force, which guards the border Punjab shares with Pakistan, needs to be more vigilant to check the flow of drugs from across the state.

Kejriwal never asked for proof of surgical strike, BJP, media wrongly attributed words to him: Manish Sisodia

Panaji: AAP leader Manish Sisodia on Wednesday alleged that BJP and the media attributed words to Delhi Chief Arvind Kejriwal which he never uttered on the issue of the surgical strikes by the Army across the LoC.

Referring to a video message of Kejriwal, Sisodia told reporters in Goa that the AAP convener never uttered the word “saboot” (proof), but was asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fight the propaganda unleashed by the international media with Pakistan questioning the authenticity of the operations.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Getty images

Kejriwal had on Monday released a video message “saluting” the Prime Minister for the surgical strikes across the LoC and urging him to “unmask” Pakistan’s propaganda. However, BJP on Tuesday said his remarks amounted to “seeking proof” of the Army action, while AAP hit back saying their rival party was playing politics.

“We have only demanded that PM should stringently fight back the propaganda by the international media on behalf of Pakistan suspecting the authenticity of the surgical strikes. It is BJP and the media which have attributed word ‘saboot’ which is not there at all in the footage,” Sisodia said.

“Those who have watched Arvind Kejriwal‘s video footage, they have appreciated him. They (who have seen the video) have said it is true that at the international level, the media is poking fun at the surgical strikes. There is a propaganda happening at the international level.

“So the way the Indian soldiers have bravely gone into the territory of Pakistan and eliminated terrorists, in similar fashion, the PM or the Indian government should fight back the propaganda,” the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi said.

“Where are words like ‘video’ or ‘saboot’ in the entire footage? They (media) are attributing these words on their own,” he alleged.

Sisodia said Delhi, places like Goa and the entire India are safe because of the soldiers who are braving all the difficulties on the border.

“When they are risking their lives on the border for our safety, cannot we expect the (Union) government to at least counter the propaganda against the operation carried out by them (soldiers),” he said.

I asked PM Modi to expose Pak propaganda, why is BJP rattled: Arvind Kejriwal

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Rejecting BJP’s criticism, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused it of playing politics over the anti-terror surgical strike and said why was the party “scared” when he had only asked the Prime Minister to counter the false propaganda by Pakistan. Maintaining that Aam Aadmi Party believes that surgical strikes did take place, Kejriwal said that in his video message yesterday he had only appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give a befitting reply. In a rare gesture, Kejriwal has yesterday “saluted” Modi for the surgical strikes by the Army on terror launch pads across the LoC.At the same time, he had urged the Centre to counter the smear campaign by Pakistan and international media, but BJP alleged that Kejriwal had in the garb of his statement questioned the Army’s assertion on surgical strike and insulted the armed forces.”I have supported the Prime Minister, applauded the army. I only said that Pakistan is spreading false propaganda in the world that surgical strikes did not happen. We all believe that surgical strikes took place,” Kejriwal said today. “Pakistan is spreading the propaganda across the world and international media is running this that surgical strikes did not take place. I had only appealed to the PM that a befitting reply should be given to Pakistan.”If I said that we have to counter Pakistan’s false propaganda then why is the BJP so rattled and scared? We all have to counter Pakistan’s propaganda and we should all, irrespective of the party, strengthen PM’s hands in this,” Kejriwal said.Claiming that Kejriwal “sought proof” on the anti-terror operation, the BJP asked him not to belittle the armed forces by getting influenced by Pakistani “propaganda”. At a press conference today, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the AAP leader should answer whether he believed in the Indian Army or not. Kejriwal later retorted: “I am unhappy. Ravi Shankar ji is saying I am playing politics. Am I playing politics or they?”Senior AAP leader Ashutosh said Pakistan is insulting ‘Bharat Mata’ and Indian army through its propaganda, but BJP is settling score with Kejriwal. “I am amazed that Ravi Shankar Prasad instead of unmasking Pak Propaganda is questioning AK. Shows BJP’s bankruptcy of ideas,” Ashutosh tweeted. Earlier, Kejriwal asked Modi govt to show proof. “Last week our army showed valour and avenged the deaths of 19 soldiers killed in the Uri attack. I may have differences with the Prime Minister over a 100 issues. But when he has shown the will (to deal with this matter), I salute him,” he said.This is perhaps the first time that Kejriwal, who has been critical about the Modi government and its Pakistan policy, has come out praising him. On the day of the strikes, the Delhi Chief Minister had hailed the army, but there was no word of praise for Modi.A day later, he had told the Delhi Assembly that is time to stand with the Centre and the differences between them can be sorted out later. Claiming that Pakistan has gone “berserk” after the strike, Kejriwal said, it is resorting to smear campaign against India at international fora and this has to be countered.”It has resorted to playing dirty politics. Since the last two days, Pakistan is taking international journalists to the border and trying to show that surgical strikes never took place. “Two days back, the United Nations gave a statement that there was no such activity on the border,” he said. “My blood boiled over these news reports (of the international media). Pakistan is indulging in smearing India’s image at the international level.The UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) “has not directly observed” any firing along the LoC, UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric had said on September 30 against the backdrop of the surgical strikes conducted by India.”I appeal to the Prime Minister that the way he and the Army taught Pakistan a lesson on ground, he should also unmask the propaganda by Pakistan at international level. The whole country is with you. I also appeal to the countrymen not to believe in the false campaign by Pakistan,” he said.

DMK invites expelled DMDK leaders

A day after expelled DMDK rebels floated their new outfit, DMK on Monday wooed them, saying party leader M Karunanidhi was ready to meet them.”Makkal DMDK… if they come, Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) is ready to meet them,” DMK Treasurer M K Stalin told reporters, referring to the oufit formed by the rebels.Former DMDK Propaganda Secretary and MLA VC Chandrakumar and nine others, including two more legislators, had recently raised a banner of revolt against their party high command’s decision to align with People’s Welfare Front (PWF) for the May 16 Assembly polls.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>They had also alleged that DMDK founder Vijayakant’s wife Premalatha was calling the shots vis-a-vis party affairs, a charge stoutly denied by her.The 10 rebel functionaries, since expelled from the party, had earlier denied Stalin had anything to do with their revolt, especially in the wake of DMDK shutting the doors on DMK for an alliance for the ensuing polls.Speculation is rife that the breakaway group led by Chandrakumar might get a few seats in the DMK alliance.

Tamil Nadu Elections: Wooed by parties, DMDK gives ‘no talks’ twist

In the latest twist to the poll scenario in Tamil Nadu, a senior DMDK leader on denied that his party chief Vijayakanth has held talks with any other political party over forging alliance for the coming assembly elections.Dismissing recent media reports stating that his party has firmed up alliance with a leading opposition party, DMDK Propaganda Secretary and whip in the outgoing Assembly, V C Chandrakumar termed such claims as a “rumour.” “Till this moment our party chief Vijayakanth has not held talks with any party for forging alliance for the election, this is the truth,” he said in a statement. The assertion assumes significance as it comes against the backdrop of sustained efforts by DMK, BJP and the four-party bloc People’s Welfare Front to woo the DMDK.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Recently, BJP senior leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar had called on Vijayakanth which DMDK described as a courtesy call. Chandrakumar said rumours were being spread by some claiming that a deal has been clinched with a party enabling DMDK to contest in 59 Assembly seats.Also, it was being claimed that talks were being held secretly with another party and that Vijayakanth was maintaining silence only to tilt the bargain more in favour of DMDK, he said. “These claims are all unimaginable and rumours,” he said and asserted that only a formal declaration by his party chief Vijayakanth would be the true stand of DMDK.Meanwhile, when DMK treasurer M K Stalin was asked by reporters if election related work was getting delayed due to glitches in forging alliance with the DMDK, he said,”our work will not be disrupted due to it and it is going on as per the schedule.”

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