The status of tribals in Kerala which became the subject of heated political debate in the state took another turn on Sunday.
BJP president Amit Shah used the cover photograph of Outlook magazine to defend prime minister Narendra Modi’s statement underlining the fact that the status of tribals in Kerala are worse than the people in chaos and poverty ridden Somalia.
It was later proved that the photo carried by the Outlook magazine was not from Kerala’s tribal hamlet of Attapadi. The picture the magazine carried on the cover was filmed in Sri Lanka’s northern Vanni before the civil war ended in May 2009.
This 9 May 2009 dated photograph of a woman holding a malnourished child was also used by the US State Department in their 2009 report on the war crimes in Sri Lanka.
But now it has come to light that the same picture was used by the Congress party in a report prepared in 2012 to indict the Gujarat government, then led by Narendra Modi.
Congress came out with a report named ‘ Join hands for change’ on the eve of the 2012 Assembly election in Gujarat The image taken from Tamil majority area in Sri Lanka in 2009 was used by the Congress party to drive home the malnutrition in BJP’s showpiece state.
When BJP’s digital warriors took on the Congress, it said the picture was inadvertently selected by its publicists. But the Congress held its ground saying the ruling party was sidestepping the issue of malnutrition in the western state.
Both the state and central leadership of the BJP unleashed a firestorm alleging the Congress party was out to discredit Gujarat.
It may be a strange quirk of fate, that BJP president Amit Shah is now using the same photograph to defend Prime Minister Modi’s Somalia gaffe about Kerala.
Shah had a king-size digital printout of Outlook’s cover magazine when he faced the media in Thiruanananthapuram on Saturday afternoon. Was it a case of bad strategm by his media managers? Or did the party chief really not recall seeing the same picture that the BJP condemned in 2012.
The saddest part however is India’s two major parties are using the image of a Sri Lankan woman and a malnourished child to score political points. Especially when both entities are aware that the same image had singed those who had used it to push their agenda, even as early as 2012.