Parmod Kumar’s sham analysis in Hindustan Times on election results in Punjab

June 07, 2019 06:00 PM

As Modi wave could not get many seats in Punjab for SAD-BJP alliance and Congress could win eight seats despite its target of winning all 13 which did not appear unachievable till six months back or at least 11 or 12, some senior journalists are going out of the way to give credit to Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh for this even as the results are more a defeat for Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) than victory of Congress or Captain who had himself stipulated target of “Mission 13”. However, what stands out, for not just singing praises to Captain but also for throwing up an absolutely false and outlandish explanation for Congress victory in Punjab in a desperate bid to build a false narrative, is “Guest Column” by Dr Parmod Kumar, Director, Institute Development and Communication in Hindustan Times of May 25, 2019. One surprises at Parmod Kumar’s audacity for attributing Congress’ victory to those reasons which actually worked against it. The column is a typical example of embedded column writing.

It is in the opening paragraph that Parmod gives his final opinion about the reason for Punjab ducking Modi wave “..because Capt Amarinder Singh stood his ground and refused to toe the Congress line of PM bashing. Rather, he appropriated and extended Modi’s narrative on national security and security identity politics that led to the saffron surge in the country.” Then he tries to build up his thesis not with some data, facts or citing the clearly visible pattern of voting but resorting to hollow rhetoric. Sample these : “After the February 14 Pulwama attack, Amarinder echoed Modi’s assertion but with significant additions. He said, “Pakistan can’t hold India to ransom just because it is a nuclear nation, even we are….He endorsed Modi’s stand by highlighting that it was time to act and desired comprehensive strategy, a mix of military, diplomatic and economic measures against Pakistan. That’s what the Government of India pursued. It connected well with people’s expectations.” Further arguing on the same lines that Amarinder perfectly toed Modi government’s line on Balakot airstrike, he quotes Captain saying “Whether it was one or 100, the message has gone loud and clear that the nation will not let the killing of its innocent soldiers and citizens go unpunished.” Then he claims, “This appealed to the large sections of “patriotic and nationalist Punjabis” irrespective of religious and caste affiliations. Amarinder filled Modi’s gap in Punjab and helped the Congress maintain its supremacy”. Oh really? One wonders that an expert can ignore the facts, data and reports from the ground so blatantly to jump to such a bizarre conclusion.

Parmod Kumar is right in saying that Amarinder was on same page with Modi on issues of nationalism. In fact in his entire tenure of over two years Amarinder has been toeing Modi government’s line on strategic and security issues. But his argument that this helped Congress in Punjab is not just outlandish but in complete contrast to the facts and data. The two constituencies – Gurdaspur and Hoshiarpuur – where this narrative worked, Congress lost. In both the constituencies Hindus are either in majority or near a majority. A look at details of the assembly segments clearly shows that Congress lost with big margins in Hindu majority segments of Pathankot district where all the four segments are contested by BJP in assembly election. Congress candidate Sunil Jakhhar could get lead only in two Sikh majority assembly segments. Similarly in Hoshiarpur BJP won those four assembly segments which are contested by BJP and biggest leads came from Mukerian and Dasuya while it lost from other five segments. Should one be telling the Doctor that BJP contests those seats which have majority of Hindu voters. He can look at the demographic data of Pathankot, Dasuya and Mukerian or can check with his friends from political parties. BJP lost its third seat Amirtsar where Sikhs are in majority.

It has become absolutely clear that Congress won the eight seats simply due to the reason that majority of the voters, read Sikhs and Dalits, did not buy Modi’s narrative on nationalism, which Captain endorsed. Those who bought this narrative defeated Congress and at other places voted for BJP ally SAD. Hindu voters of Gurdaspur constituency defeated a Hindu candidate of Congress while Sikh candidate of BJP lost from a Sikh majority seat. On merits both the defeated candidates were head and shoulders above rest of the candidates in Punjab. If Puri has remained among country’s best diplomats and has also proved his abilities as minister, Jakhhar has emerged as an intelligent, much balanced and mature politician of Punjab who talks a lot of sense and enjoys respect across communities. Both of them lost due the factors which worked against their respective parties at their respective seats with different demographic profiles. Any wonder that even SAD candidates got the leads on some of those segments which are contested by BJP or are known to have good population of Hindus. For instance SAD’s Anandpur Sahib candidate P S Chandumajra got lead from Anandpur Sahib assembly segment which is contested by BJP and Congress’ Manish Tewari trailed. Data debunks Mr. Parmod Kumar’s theory – “This appealed to the large sections of “patriotic and nationalist Punjabis” irrespective of religious and caste affiliations. Amarinder filled Modi’s gap in Punjab and helped the Congress maintain its supremacy”. So, these “large sections of patriotic and nationalist Punjabis” were in two constituencies and in some assembly segments across the state and this nationalism worked respective of religious and caste affiliations. Does he want to suggest that Dalits who deserted BJP-SAD in Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Anandpuur Sahib seats are not enough patriotic and nationalists?

Parmod Kumar is introduced an expert on Punjab and its politics but one wonders what has really made him to get so economical with the truth – which is not just anecdotal but coming out through voting patterns emerging from the polling data.

Interestingly responding to a question by HT executive editor Ramesh Vinayak on the day polling results were out, Captain Amarinder Singh had himself said, “It was Hindutva plank of the BJP which made it Hindus versus the rest poll, leading to a consolidation of the Hindu votes in favour of the party.”

In fact it is the same reason and factor which worked in Punjab for BJP and against Congress.

Let Parmod Kumar counter Captain on this. Or does he think that this polarization did not happen in Punjab? But it is difficult to believe that he does not know the reality. Only thing is he is trying to conceal it.

Majority voters of Punjab, in other words voters of majority community of Punjab, did not buy Modi or Captain’s narrative on nationalism in Punjab but Parmod Kumar is trying to sell a false narrative.

If this was not enough, second section of his column “Blended nationalism with identity politics”, gives more peep into his mind set and not-so-subtle bias. Sample it “At the national level the violation of cow led to violent reactions from fundamentalists. In Punjab the desecration of religious books triggered extreme reactions, leading to the targeting of a political party and its leaders”.

To call this comparison intellectual dishonesty is a euphemism for what Parmod Kumar is doing. He wishes to compare the protestors in Punjab against sacrilege with cow vigilantes who have killed people in other state and even PM Modi had called them “anti-social elements hiding behind the mask of Gau Rakshaks” in August 2016. When he contextualizes the lynching in the name of cow as “reaction” to “violation of cow” it is disgusting, if one care for the facts. PMW challenges him to tto prove his point. The instances were neither “violation of cow” nor “reaction”, these were simply the pro-active attacks on minority community members using alibi of cow protection. He subtly tries to contextualize the killings or thrashings by the cow vigilantes as “reaction”. Then he compares these outrageous pro-active attacks by so called Gau Rakshaks (remember PM called them anti-social) with protests against sacrilege and calls them “extreme reaction” “targeting” of a political party and its leaders

Parmod Kumar should explain what does he mean by “extreme reaction”. Did the protestors even attempt to lynch anybody? He should tell if they don’t have any right to protest or does he want to compare blocking of roads by Sikhs in Punjab with murder of a Muslim by lynch mobs? Clearly he does not even want them to have the right to protest against sacrilege of a holy book considered living Guru by a minority community, which he cleverly and dismissively mentions just as “religious books”.

It gets more bizarre further when he writes “In a statement Amarinder accused Pakistan’s ISI of trying to destabilize Punjab by orchestrating the desecration of the holy books. He distinguished between the desecration and police firing ”.

It was in September last year that Captain in a TV interview had said “there may (be) ISI hand behind some incidents of sacrilege in Punjab during Akali-BJP government. ..SI wanted to create disturbance and instability by such incidents”.

Clearly Parmod uses this statement (which is yet to be backed by facts) and ignores other known facts to construct his thesis. Does he not know that Bargari sacrilege (which he mentions a sentence later) and two other major sacrileges have already been traced to Sirsa Dera followers by the Punjab Police. What really stops him to mention this fact ? But then how would he bring in ISI as he wishes to build the fake thesis around nationalism.

In his entire column he neither mentions Hindu polarization in voting pattern nor Sirsa Dera’s role in sacrilege. Fair analysis, Parmod Ji?

Does these arguments, deviations, comparison arise out of his secularism or something else (which does not even appear skin deep)? What really makes him to draw such misplaced comparison of protests against sacrilege with mob lynching by so called cow vigilantes? Why is he nursing such feelings about a minority community? Clearly he tries to show the offenders (cow vigilantes) and protestors (who did not hurt anybody) to paint the Sikh protestors in same bad light. Is it not a deliberate attempt to vilify the Sikh protestors?

In the fourth part of the column “Resurgence of Akali Dal” he mentions vote share percentage increase. He just needs to look at the data once again and should have pointed out that who is the biggest contributor to 7% increase in vote share of alliance. It’s smaller ally BJP which has contributed 4.24% of this less than 7% increase.

Another point in this part he mentions is “Akali Dal could not increase the seat share in rural Punjab. Its gains are in semi-urban and urban constituencies”. Now what does this reflect?

What stops Parmod Kumar from writing the truth that considerable polarization took place among Hindu voters in Punjab which actually worked against Congress? What stops him from acknowledging the role of Sikh voters in Congress getting eight seats ?

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