Everyone has been wondering what the third Modi government will do. So I asked some friends how the Opposition would behave and what it would do.

I said I thought it would behave itself in Parliament and take its protest onto the streets. Someone then reminded me of Agitprop, agitation and propaganda. It consists of propagating falsehoods and agitating for or against them.

This strategy was first used by Soviet communists in 1917. They even had a full department devoted to it with several techniques of messaging and dissemination, chief among which was ridiculing and vilifying the opposing ideology and its supporters.

The Nazis adopted it in Germany in the 1930s. Joseph Goebbels ran the propaganda department and is famous for saying that if you repeat a scary lie often enough, people will start believing it.

Over time outright lies became the staple of agitprop. The medium was newspapers friendly to the ‘Cause’.

Between 1945 and 1990 all countries started indulging in agitprop. The idea was to keep agitating against governments via false propaganda. Very often these governments were unable to counter it. Lies, after all, are always more credible than facts.

We had many newspapers in India also which targeted the Congress party and its dynasty. All hues of the political spectrum used these publications.

The Congress has now been replaced by the BJP and the dynasty by Narendra Modi. Everything else is the same with the TV shouters and social media trolls serving as force multipliers.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 agitprop largely faded away. The one time it was used massively and successfully was over the WMD campaign against Saddam Hussein in 2002-03. Indeed, so successful was the propaganda that the West permanently disabled West Asia. It wanted and got the oil.

We the Indians

In India the fear being propagated by the Sangh parivar for the last 70 years is that Hindus will soon be in a minority and the Muslims will be a majority. That, at current fertility rates, this can never happen is never mentioned.

With the explosion of social media in the last 20 years agitprop has come back with knobs on. It’s called disinformation now and is aided by AI in communication technology.

Today no one knows what is true and what isn’t. Also, the propagation of lies is now confused with freedom of speech.

Thus the Congress, adopting it very late, used social media very effectively in the last general election when it convinced enough voters in UP that the BJP would do away with reservations. The BJP’s retaliatory tactics about mangal sutras and cows etc didn’t work because they were much smaller falsehoods.

But think: how much worse it would have been for the political parties if they hadn’t used these scare tactics. As the saying goes, nice guys come last. Especially in politics. This lies at the heart of the problem

Given the success that the Congress has had, it will resort to agitprop continuously. Rahul Gandhi has already fired the first shot with his remark that EVMs are “black boxes”.

Others will follow suit. Jairam Ramesh has said that the N in NCERT isn’t Nagpur or Narendra. But what about Nurul Hasan, the Left leaning historian who was education minister for a long time? What was that N? How did the textbooks and faculty appointments fare under him?

Fortunately there’s something called diminishing marginal utility. That means each new bit of nonsense will give lower returns.

Eventually as Modi has discovered, the returns turn negative. The opposition will also discover it soon enough.