Herrings are red. Strawmen are blue.
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

Picture this: One of your party MPs has just been publicly disgraced in a sleaze scandal which involves a possible judiciary casting couch.

A 25 year old scam resurfaces, casting aspersions at none less than your party’s High Priestess and her Family. Someone touted as a one man army is hounding your erstwhile Finance Minister cum current Home Minister in a scam that involves numbers often used to describe the distance between ourselves and stars in space.

You have a reputed lawyer and an unassuming but popular anti corruption crusader’s team outing papers alleging commissions in defense deals. Not to mention a vastly unpopular, scam ridden, paralyzed government and electoral defeats.

Faced with such prospects you and I would be cowering in a corner under a blanket.

But wait, this is the Congress party. All they did is to pull a rabbit, a red herring and a few straw men from their hat. Voila! All is forgotten in the ensuing confusion and outrage. And that’s exactly what happened. If there was any doubt about Congress’ skills in political maneuvering and attention management, they were all laid to rest.

While the Congress is an expert at constructing strawmen and demolishing them in all matters of public discourse, it never needed to do anything. Nowadays all that is outsourced to the mainstream media, most of which does the job more brilliantly than anyone from the Congress themselves would.

Strawmen galore:
Let us say your classmate was copying in an exam. Another classmate of yours is not so cordial with this copycat guy. He catches him in the act and brings it to everyone’s notice. Your college Principal walks in and castigates the copycat thus – “Tsk..Tsk.. This is what happens if you do not have cordial relations with the guy sitting next to you in an exam. He can get you caught”. Worse, your Principal turns to other lecturers and begins debating whether people who get someone else caught in such acts must be regulated. Sounds absurd?

Yet that’s exactly what happened as the fallout of the Singhvi CD fiasco. While the casting couch angle of the controversy or the abuse of Court chambers were either not touched upon or mentioned just for the sake of formality and brushed aside, most in the media were happier saying that these were consequences of Singhvi not treating his driver properly and hinting at whether social media was encroaching upon personal spaces of public personalities. Justice Katju played willing sidekick with his now famous “I have opinions on everything and opinions on those opinions too” attitude – calling for control and regulation of social media. Was that the Rahukaalam effect on him?

‘Rabbit out of the hat’ moment:
If there was one thing no seasoned political animal could have expected from the Congress, it was nominating Sachin Tendulkar for the Rajya Sabha. Now do not frown at my lack of knowledge of civics. I am just telling you what media spinmeisters told me – It was the Congress that nominated him.

I had my moment of shock and then many moments of humour and sarcasm due to it. But what really took me by surprise was the whole #UnfollowSachin campaign that ran amok on twitter. That to me was that moment of enlightenment that explained all about why Congress has been in power for so long despite being the single largest threat to a developing India.

For that constituency of people who do not understand the difference between Congress and the Government, Sachin was now effectively batting for the Congress – a huge plus in public consciousness. As for that group which was always anti Congress, it was time for outrage – at Sachin. Anger is fine. But obsessive directionless anger and continued outrage just defeat the purpose. #UnfollowSachin ruled the roost. My timeline was a horse on dope, with every other tweet casting aspersions on who Sachin’s wife was, what her nationality was, how he was a Congi rat and all that. All the issues that were begging to be given attention were now sidelined for a total red herring.

The media willingly did their job of devoting more airwaves for the Sachin moment rather than Bofors or the Maoist menace. Just like willing goats, most of the twitterati took the bait and did exactly what the Congress wanted the populace to – forget all else and react to the rabbit out of the hat. And there was that comic group which was praising the Congress for bringing in Sachin, whose tweets were an exercise in searching for a needle in a dung infested haystack.

There could be different opinions on how much he can contribute, whether he should have allowed himself to be courted by a government that could go down as the biggest scamster filled enterprise ever. But you cannot fault a man without even waiting to see what he will actually bring to the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress has yet again won the battle of manipulating public discourse and opponents. They are experts at making opponents play on their own turf.

All the “Social Media has won” triumphalism that was generated post the Singhvi CD fiasco and his resignation went down the drain the moment F words were used at Sachin Tendulkar.

 For more on the actual “Sachin as MP” issue, visit CRI Commentator Sudhir’s blog

For more on the dynamics in the media, social media on the Singhvi CD issue read these posts:

News in the Time of Social Media

L’Affaire Singhvi: The Hubristic Mainstream Media