New Delhi, March 17, 2017 (Alochonaa):
Demonetisation (the radical 1000+500 rupee note ban/exchange which was triggered on 8th November 2016 midnight) was both Policy and Politics. The Politics was won by the tough signaling as can be seen in the aftermath of the regional polls where the ruling Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party will form four out of five state governments with the exception of Punjab where it was a face saver for the opposition Congress, the common man in the serpentine queues saw the rich man penalized. This perverse sentiment won the Day. The fine print on the policy end is less emphatic. The messaging was powerful in this radical step as can be read from the aftermath of the regional polls, which were an effective mid term referendum for the federal administration with polls in May 2019.
With a clear majority now in the Rajya Sabha (The Upper House of the Indian Parliament) in the aftermath of the landslide victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections (the largest state in India with a significant Muslim population), Modi ji has the power to decide everything from President to Big Bang reforms and Demonetisation was one certainly. A new political imagination is getting institutionalized with secular, caste being relegated to the bin. A clear muscular narrative with a majoritarian bent is commonplace. Prof Yogendra Yadav, the activist political thinker calls it the ‘Indira Gandhi Moment’ with a pro poor shift in voice; MNREGA, Loan Waiver etc. The game is for 2019 and beyond. Like Political Islam in Egypt, Turkey and Malaysia; the BJP is mainstreaming the ‘Political Hindu’, with a greater discursive space for the post caste era, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (With Everyone and, Development for All) is community blind as it is a new vocabulary to dismantle the Mandal Commission for Affirmative Action Construct. Social Justice is fashioned beyond affirmative action aka reservations. In the address to his party on the 12 th March evening, Mr. Modi exalted the ‘New India’ which is under 35 years age, who is free of the baggage of history, to carve out an alternative trajectory of growth as politics and not be constrained by redundant silos of reductionist identity politics.
The electoral map of India is increasingly saffron. Modi ji since 2012 (when he was anointed the Prime Ministerial Candidate for the 2014 Federal Elections) has done his job. The inherent Hindu sentiment is voting at the ballot box. Radical policy decisions such as Demonetization is translated as strong development signals. The Indian Developmental dream is seductive. The post caste era is here. ‘Achche Din’ (Better Days up ahead, the campaign slogan in 2014) with Majoritarian Developmental Politics.
The flip side is a total demolition of the secular opposition. Punjab has voted for the Maharaja of Patiala (Captain Arminder Singh, the face of the Punjab Congress), and not the GOP (The Congress). The urbane Aam Admi Party becomes opposition in Punjab, although a distant second. 2019 will be a greater mandate as the footprint is expanding, with Karnataka and Manipur. The Maharashtra Municipal Polls were a BJP show with Odisha in tow in eastern India.
The opposition simply does not have a personality of the lines of the Prime Minister, like him or hate him. The hard work, the energy is evident. Few parts of India apart from the Deep South are away from its reach. Kanyakumari (the southernmost tip of mainland India) also has a BJP MP.
Opposition has to fight polls to at least present a credible face; Mamata di and Nitish Saheb are oasis bearers, the Chief Ministers of West Bengal and Bihar respectively.
Keshav Prasad Maurya , the BJP UP President quips on NDTV in the aftermath of the electoral results coming out:
‘Demonetisation ka virodh, Narendra Bhai ka virodh aur PM ka virodh Uttar (
The criticism of Demonetisation is the critique of Narendra Modi, and the critique of Narendra Modi Uttar Pradesh cannot tolerate’)
We will have a more affirmative regime from now on. The Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University Student led Agitation crackdowns among others are small blips on the radar.
On a side note, the Lutyens zone Seminar Set, is as detached from the ground as ever, and I can observe a new intellectual elite emerging with Sanjeev Sanyal (Economist and Principal Economic Advisor to the Government of India) and Hindol Sengupta (Author and Editor at Large at Fortune India) challenging the traditional knowledge class.
*The Writer is the India Affairs Editor, Alochonaa.
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