Monday, February 20, 2017
NEW DELHI: All recognised economists, barring a couple perhaps, have opposed demonetisation and its impact with strong facts and figures. The world media from the initially supportive Wall Steet Journal, New York Times, Economist, Guardian---almost every publication recognised by governments and the media itself---have pointed to the pitfalls of the move and the disastrous impact it has had, and will have on the Indian economy.
But in a clear cut strategy Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken the lead in his government and party to ignore the facts, and focus instead on a political campaign based on created perceptions and laced with threats for the forthcoming Assembly elections. And in the process has set out a policy that is being followed to the letter by his government and his party where all those questioning demonetisation are branded as ‘blackmoney worshippers” and “beimaan”.
PM Modi has spoken on demonetisation in almost every single public interaction since he announced the move over two months ago. But his speeches have not even acknowleded the facts and statistics listed by renowned economists to warn of recession. There has been no rebuttal of facts, just the creation of a perception that broadly is as follows:
-this is a “bold move” taken at great “risk to life” by the “courageous” Prime Minister;
-demonetisation will clean society of the corrupt, and help the poor who should be happy that at least the rich have been hit;
- the corrupt free environment will be a dream come true for the poor;
-do not listen to the opponents, they are all beimaan, all with black money, all against the poor;
-the poor will have money in their accounts, that was changed later to ‘hang on to the money’ that the corrupt have deposited in your accounts to hide their black income;
-the corrupt will be dealt with, they will not get away.
The last is quite a favourite with the Prime Minister as it adds to the ‘fear factor’ that ensures silence and thus, takes the edge of the vocal opposition. As those silent include large sections of the bureaucracy, the industrialists, the media who prefer to keep their counsel rather than move towards the wrong end of the stick. And they are intimidated by the PM as he wags his finger at public rallies and makes it clear that those who oppose demonetisation in his view are corrupt.
Threats and abuse have become a part of governance. The people of India are constantly being divided into nationalists versus traitors; patriots versus pro-Pakistanis; corrupt versus honest; wherein all opposition and opponents to government and BJP policy are branded with the choicest labels. Until the courts intervened very recently, two years were spent in branding citizens of India as seditionists, for little more than speaking for rights and justice.
But while the agencies of government have been used to attack, and try to silence, human rights activists like Teesta Setalvad and independent lawyers like Indra Jaisingh, students and writers this is perhaps the first time that the Prime Minister has been sufficiently provoked to pillory his opponents with words like “beimaan” directly. And lead the attack as it were on those who have raised serious questions about his controversial move to demonetise currency without any preparation.As he announced at one of his many meetings at the onset, “the pain of such people is that the government did not give a chance to make any preparation (to save their cash). If these people had got 72 hours to make their preparation, then they would have lavished praise that there was no one like Modi.”
The BJP is optimistic that the PMs divisive campaign will find support in Uttar Pradesh and bring the party to power on the ‘demonetisation’ card. The BSP and the Samajwadi party have been trying to cut into the campaign, but the BJP continues to hope that the perception created by a calculated campaign and added to by a pliable and supplicant media will work in its favour. And given the fact that UP’s rumour machinery is now controlled by the BJP/RSS, the possibility remains, that the perception and not the facts will determine the votes.