This is also known as the Cats paw stratagem. Basically it means that someone else is used to do the dirty work.
Once upon a time, there was a rat that saw chestnuts roasting on an open fire; he loved the taste of roasted chestnuts, but how to get them without burning himself? He noticed that a cat lay beside the fire and an idea came to him. He would persuade the cat to use its long claws to extract the chestnuts from the fire. To cut the story short he succeeded. He ended up with the nuts, the cat ended up with some nuts and a singed paw. Hence the expression that someone is a cat’s paw in a particular dispute.
In the project world this means that your rival will not attack you directly. Instead they will stir up discontent among your user groups, or your stakeholders, in order to discredit your project and get it cancelled.
To counter this you have, to paraphrase a famous quote, ‘to keep your friends close, but your stakeholders even closer’. You should not just rely on your communications plan for your stakeholder management: It’s necessary, but it not sufficient. A smart project dashboard is no substitute for a daily/weekly/monthly cup of java with your stakeholders. Stakeholders, all of them, are both a strength, and a weakness. Start to lose their support and you’re in real trouble: Keep ‘em close!